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Prayers to Stay Alive

The prophet Isaiah served as the spiritual advisor to King Hezekiah. On one occasion in Judah, Isaiah became a bearer of bad news, 2 Kings 20:1, revealing that Hezekiah’s illness will end his life. Not willing to go down without a fight, Isaiah records the words of this dying king. According to the context in Isaiah 38:2, upon hearing his death sentence, King Hezekiah turned away from the prophet, pouring his heart out to the Lord while facing a wall. Fourteen verses later, Hezekiah makes his intentions clear, “bring me back to life.”

Like a twittering swallow or a crane, so do I chirp and chatter; I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary and dim with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; take my side and be my security [as of a debtor being sent to prison]. 15 But what can I say? For He has both spoken to me and He Himself has done it. I must go softly [as in solemn procession] all my years and my sleep has fled because of the bitterness of my soul. 16 O Lord, by these things men live; and in all these is the life of my spirit. O give me back my health and make me live! – Isaiah 38:14-16

Dying of old age is one thing, but when a rare disease threatens the life of child, parents become desperate. John Mark recalls a father who sought out Jesus, eager for him to come to his house. Before arriving, Jesus tells this ruler of the synagogue to keep on believing. Unfortunately, it appears that they were too late as news of this little girl’s death spread throughout Jairus’ home. Instead of accepting defeat, Jesus cleared the room, praying with his inner circle. Taking the laying on of hands to a new level, Jesus commands the spirit of death to leave this girl by proclaiming “arise”.

When they arrived at the house of the ruler of the synagogue, He looked [carefully and with understanding] at [the] tumult and the people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when He had gone in, He said to them, Why do you make an uproar and weep? The little girl is not dead but is sleeping. 40 And they laughed and jeered at Him. But He put them all out, and, taking the child’s father and mother and those who were with Him, He went in where the little girl was lying. 41 Gripping her [firmly] by the hand, He said to her, Talitha cumi—which translated is, Little girl, I say to you, arise [from the sleep of death]! – Mark 5:38-41

While father time will eventually be victorious, it doesn’t mean that you should accept a doctor’s diagnosis. When I was 16, I was told that I would never run again and most likely walk with a limp for the rest of my life. However, before my surgery for torn tendons and an ankle twisted 180 degrees in the wrong directions, Ken Horne and friends from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes laid hands on me in the hallway. Praying for a miracle, even the doctor who performed this procedure was surprised that I was able to run cross country my senior year of high school. When you refuse to accept fate, there are several examples of prayers in the Bible to help you stay alive physically and spiritually.

by Jay Mankus

Known or Unknown

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was built following the first World War. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of Arlington National Cemetery. On September 1921, four more American bodies were exhumed from unmarked battlefield graves in France and placed in the new Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington. This memorial was dedicated on November 11, 1921, but additional work needed to be completed before being opened to the public on April 9, 1932. The first military guards were troopers from the 3rd Cavalry, “Brave Rifles”, posted at Fort Myer. Since April 6, 1948,  the regiment was reactivated and has been guarded by soldiers from 3rd Infantry which you see today when visiting.

So Paul, standing in the center of the Areopagus [Mars Hill meeting place], said: Men of Athens, I perceive in every way [on every hand and with every turn I make] that you are most religious or very reverent to demons. 23 For as I passed along and carefully observed your objects of worship, I came also upon an altar with this inscription, To the unknown god. Now what you are already worshiping as unknown, this I set forth to you, Acts 17:22-23.

During the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul stumbled upon a monument dedicated to an unknown god. Unlike other idols erected to the various gods of Greece, this altar suggested the presence of a higher power. This subtle memorial provides an open door for the apostle Paul to introduce philosophers to the God who raised Jesus from the dead. Paul’s speech on Mars Hill got mixed reviews. Like any debate, preconceived notions, stereotypes and uncertainty prevented skeptics from accepting or embracing this unknown god. Based upon the end of Acts 17, the resurrection of the dead was a stumbling block, too unbelievable for minds to grasp. Nonetheless, Paul was welcomed back to speak, winning over Dionysius, a judge of the Areopagus.

For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification], Romans 1:20.

I spent the first portion of my life in a religious setting, forced to attend Mass every weekend, even on vacation. Unfortunately, I spent more time looking at my watch than paying attention to the priest giving the Homily. If you haven’t already noticed, I was raised Catholic, trained to pursue the Sacraments such as Communion and Confirmation. The dangerous aspect about being religious is that you know just enough to get by. Instead of practicing faith by entering into a personal relationship with Jesus, I treated God like a check list. I went to church, completed confirmation and confessed my sins to a priest. Despite attending church for 15 years, I didn’t know God. If it wasn’t for the Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s Bible Study at my high school, God still might be a mystery to me. However, if you want the unknown to become known, look for the signs in creation so that an invisible God becomes visible through faith.

by Jay Mankus

The Wind Beneath my Spiritual Wings

In case you haven’t heard, I regret to inform you that my former coach, groomsmen and spiritual mentor Ken Horne passed away last Wednesday. While I am certain Ken is now celebrating with Jesus in heaven, I never got the chance to say goodbye. I first met Ken as my Earth Science as a 7th grader at Hanby Junior High School. Despite earning a D, C, B and A in each of the 4 marking periods, Ken gave me an A for the year. Thinking this was a mistake, I stopped by Ken’s classroom on my way home from school. Ken’s response to my concern was, “by the end of the year, you were an A student so I gave you an A.” These words left a lasting impression on me.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

Two years later, Ken and I ended up at the same school once again, Concord High in Wilmington, Delaware. This time Ken was my Physical Science teacher. Between 7th and 9th grade, I was lost, often feeling depressed and suicidal. Looking back, God brought Ken into my life to be the wind beneath my spiritual wings, gently leading me closer and closer to Christ. After thinking I was too cool for the Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s huddle at Concord, I finally said yes to Ken’s persistent invitations as a sophomore. The greatest quality Ken possessed was the ability to recognize and see the potential in students. Despite my flaws, imperfections and stuttering, the Holy Spirit enabled Ken see what I could be if I trusted Jesus as my Savior.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full, John 10:10.

During my final three years at Concord, Ken invited me to numerous events, retreats and revivals. Before I ever knew what I mentor was, Ken showed me how to live the abundant life by demonstrating this as my swim coach, teacher and spiritual leader outside of school. Ken asked me to share my testimony for the first time at a retreat during my junior. What impressed Ken the most was this was the first time I didn’t stutter in public. A year later, Ken entrusted me as the Program Director for FCA, asking questions and leading spiritual discussions with my peers. These experiences prepared me to become a Summer Work Camp Coordinator, Youth Director and High School Bible teacher. Like anyone who met Ken, we will all miss him. Yet, for now, all I can do I flame into flame my spiritual gift so that I might become the wind beneath someone else’s spiritual wings. Rest in peace Ken.

by Jay Mankus

The Connection Between Thoughts and Prayer

During my years as a teenager, I fluctuated between one of two extremes.  When I was happy, I was sky high trying to uplift anyone I came in contact with.  Meanwhile, when I was depressed I sucked the life out of a room, seeking to make everyone miserable like me.  This roller coaster ride was a sign of my immaturity, allowing my thoughts and feelings to influence how I behaved day to day.  About this time, self help books began to take center stage, encouraging readers to put these ideas into action.  One concept suggested, you are what you think.

Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God, Philippians 4:6.

By the time I reached college, I began to ponder the connection between thoughts and prayer.  I guess you can say I was tired of allowing my emotions to shape who I was as a person.  Through a local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I was encouraged to start reading the Bible daily.  During a retreat, a weekend trip with fellow believers, I began reading the book of Philippians.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul urged individuals to pray about troubled thoughts.  Instead of becoming overwhelmed by anxiety or worries, prayer provides an opportunity to pour out your heart to God.

And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours], Philippians 4:7.

When thoughts are channeled into prayer, the Bible promises to send a special blessing, the peace of God.  According to the apostle Paul, this supernatural sensation calms hearts and minds.  This is accomplished by transcending your understanding, able to separate the trivial from what’s really important in life.  As I have heard numerous times, “know Jesus, know peace.”  However, when you fail to connect thoughts with prayer, peace is unattainable.  Therefore, when you are bombarded by a wave of emotions in the future, may you connect troubling thoughts with prayer to find a spiritual peace that surpasses all understanding.

by Jay Mankus

Distortions of Truth

During my senior year of college, I became president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at the University of Delaware.  With any type of leadership position, there are numerous responsibilities that you must face and fulfill.  My first week on campus was spent sitting at a table in different venues, meeting and greeting incoming freshmen as well as transfers who wanted to know what our group had to offer.  During an outdoor event later that week, I was positioned next to a Make Cannabis Legal table.  A reporter for our college newspaper thought this was ironic, Christians and pot together, stopping by to ask me a few questions.  When the article was posted, I realized that I was set up as what I said was taken out of context.  This was my first encounter with a distortion of truth.

As it is written and forever remains written, There is none righteous [none that meets God’s standard], not even one. There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God, Romans 3:10-11.

Five years later I attended a Promise Keepers event at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.  Sixty five thousand men filled this stadium eager to hear Colorado University football coach Bill McCartney.  One of my co-workers at Four Winds Golf Club, who wasn’t a believer, was amazed by this speech.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t the headlines which led Chicago’s nightly news.  Roughly six million people lived in Chicago at the time of this event who heard reporters interview women who opposed the Promise Keepers movement.  These protestors labeled participants as anti-woman, bigots and sexists.  The coverage suggested that several hundred women marched outside the stadium, standing in unison against Promise Keepers.  However, the press failed to tell their six millions viewers that there were only ten protestors on Friday night and two on Saturday.  Nonetheless, the media had a specific narrative that they wanted to communicate and the only way to execute this plan was through a distortion of truth.

All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, no, not one,” Romans 3:12.

In the last few months, there hasn’t been a day without some sort of news story on the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process.  From week to week, there have been twists and turns creating a media feeding frenzy.  The initial stage began by trying to collect and uncover all of Judge Kavanaugh’s opinions on previous court cases and decisions.  After an extensive examination, Senate hearings followed with days of questioning.  Despite allegations, criticism and doubt, Brett Kavanaugh passed the second phase with relative ease.  On the verge of a senate confirmation vote for this Supreme Court nominee, Democrats have unleashed a desperate attempt to derail this process by smearing this man with a series a sexual assault allegations going back to Brett’s high school days.  A letter leaked to the press resulted in another hearing with an accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.  While compelling, this didn’t satisfy every senator, leading to a seventh FBI investigation of Brett Kavanaugh.  If you watch cable news, ninety percent of the coverage on Kavanaugh has been negative with an odd talking point, “guilty until proven innocent.”  Perhaps, a distortion of the truth?

This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [Jew or Gentile] who believe [and trust in Him and acknowledge Him as God’s Son]. There is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:22-23.

This current Supreme Court nomination process reminds me of a previous election in the state of Washington.  When the candidate who was suppose to win lost, there was a series of recounts done.  Each time the individual who lost picked up a number of votes.  By the third recount, the democrat was victorious with the republican departing quietly into the night.  If this current standard, going back to your days in high school is applied to future judges or politicians, there will be no one left to run for these offices.  No matter how hard you try to do the right thing daily, sooner or later you will fall, giving into the temptation on earth.  Human beings are imperfect people, full of distortions that deviate from truth.  According to the apostle Paul, the only way to overcome mankind’s flawed human nature is by coming to faith in Christ.  As you reflect upon current events in the United States, may you pause to consider what’s reality important, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

by Jay Mankus

 

Songs to Get You Through the Storms in Life

When radio was in it’s prime, I spent summer days as a teenager hanging out on my back deck with friends listening to music.  Except for all request lunch hours, you could guess which dozens songs were played on an hourly loop until the next set of singles were released.  The only thing comparable from this era that remains today is Delilah Radio.  One of the few DJ’s to survive advances in technology, Delilah’s nightly show plays songs to get it’s listeners through the storms of life.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you,” Deuteronomy 31:6.

Like the various genres that exist, my tastes in music has evolved over time.  Early on, I turned to songs from Air Supply, Chicago and REO Speedwagon to get me through trying times.  Unfortunately, some of these songs made me more depressed, especially ballads by Chicago.  Thus, I began searching for something more meaningful.  Lyrics with encouraging, positive and uplifting messages.  My good friend Mindy introduced me to a new sound, inviting me to my first Christian concert.  My swim coach Ken Horne who also served as the Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s school huddle leader, furthered my knowledge of this brand of wholesome music.

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” – Matthew 8:23-27

These two individual inspired a life long quest to uncover hidden gems.  This lead me to discover a huge Christian warehouse where I could listen to music before buying it.  Meanwhile, Jackie, the former owner of the Sonshine House was my guide to find my favorite songs played a new local Christian station.  When I didn’t have anyone to ask, I developed a successful system based upon album covers.  Those artists who spent a little extra money on design and graphics usually produced solid tunes.  Sure, I bought plenty of duds void of any decent songs, yet I pressed on to share my passion with others.

Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him., 1 Samuel 16:23.
On this journey, I came across Christians who practiced legalism, referring to any secular form of music as being inspired by the Devil.  Years later I read a quote from Wes King in an article on the difference between Christian and secular music.  King’s opinion struck a cord with me that I have adopted.  “There are two types of music, that which glorifies God and those that glorify self.”  Depending upon your preference, you need to make sure you don’t get caught up judging the opposing side.  Rather, it’s best to seek and tell others about those songs which help you overcome the storms in life.  Below is a list of artists and topics that have helped me endure various hardships in life.
Crying Out for Help: Breathe on Me by Jennifer Knapp
Coping with Suicide: For Annie by Petra
Finding Answers: Is There Anybody Out There by Secondhand Serenade
Finding New Life: The Lost Get Found (remix) by Britt Nicole
God’s Presence: Hold On by Stellar Kart
Holding on to Hope: The Anchor Holds by Ray Boltz
Loneliness: He Won’t Let You Go by The Kry
Long Distance Friendships: Somewhere Somehow by Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith
Overcoming Addiction: Pull by Curious Fools
Perseverance: For Those Who Wait by Firefight
Starting Over: A Father’s Love by Billy Crockett
Seeking Forgiveness: When God Ran by Benny Hester
Starting Over: Back to the Start by Esterlyn
Struggling with Integrity: Get it Right by Silverline
Struggling with Problems in Life: Therapy by Reliant K
The Fullness of God: The Love of Christ by Wes King
Overcoming Failure: Perfect Love by David & the Giants
Overcoming Self-Esteem Issue: Mirror by Barlow Girl
When You’re About to Quit: Six Candles by FM Static
When You’re Losing Faith: Faith Like That by Jonah 33
by Jay Mankus

Feelings Only Tell Half the Story

Emotion, passion and sentiment is not always visible within individuals.  While some people may wear their feelings on their sleeves like an intense roller coaster ride, others remain reserved, hiding pain on the inside.  During my sophomore year of high school, a friend from cross country punched me in the arm, near my shoulder blade every time I saw him.  This reaction only told half the story.  This gesture released the frustration inside his heart as he helplessly watched his mother lose a year long battle with cancer.  After her funeral, Carl became my best friend at Concord High.

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.

This friendship coincided with my own decision to trust Jesus as my Savior.  Following this decision on December 4th, 1984, I began to break out of my own depression due to a losing battle with stuttering.  My transformation wasn’t immediately, but as I began to attend monthly Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ meetings, I discovered I wasn’t alone in facing demons from my past.  No matter who you are and where you live, there will always be cycles of ups and downs.  Yet, faith stabilizes broken and weary souls and when you enter into accountability relationships, this strengthens one’s ability to develop a firm foundation.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity, 1 Timothy 4:12.

As I reflect upon the past 30 plus years, feelings tend to reveal a part of my past that I haven’t fully let go of, hoping to still remain in control.  Depending upon the year or in some cases decade, its easy to regress, slipping back into former habits of the flesh.  This is where the power of testimonies take faith to the next level.  God has given me opportunities to share my faith from time to time.  Unfortunately, many of these chances were neglected, overlooked or wasted.  Nonetheless, I’m thankful for the few I made the most of, especially during a church service in Friendship, Maryland when I gave my first ever sermon.  Don’t let troubles in life rain on the open doors that the Lord provides.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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