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Only One

In the realm of sports, there is only one champion each year. While ties can and do occur in the Olympics with individuals sharing a gold medal, professional sports continue into overtime until a champion is crowned. The longest playoff game in major sports history was a 13-12 World Series Game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros. This October 29th, 2017 game lasted 10-innings, totaling five hours and 17 minutes.

Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears, 2 Samuel 7:22.

As time passes, team secrets may leak out, revealing elements of cheating. Whether this involves stealing signs, the use of banned substances such as steroids or investigations like Spy Gate, champions and championships become tainted. When talent isn’t good enough, the rules are bent, erased or stretched to enhance a team’s chances of winning. In recent history, commissioners of several sports have adjusted the record books to place asterisks next to certain accomplishments. These decisions ultimately leave in doubt who is the best in a sport or who is the only one who didn’t cheat.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5.

In the spiritual realm, no one compares to the God of the Bible. After an encounter with the prophet Nathan, King David comes to the conclusion that there is no one like God. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul clearly states that there is only one mediator between God and man. Throughout history many have claimed to have a secret connection with God, but the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is one of a kind. Unlike any other religious leader, the founder of Christianity ascended into heaven and remains the only living God. While there will always be doubters, skeptics and those unwilling to believe, Jesus remains the only one, Acts 4:12.

by Jay Mankus

Getting Dialed In

The origins of the expression “dialed in” is unclear.  The only agreement on this saying is that it pre dates cell phones.  There is a thought that dialed in refers back to the Vietnam War.  Whenever a soldier couldn’t do his or her assigned task within the required time or kept screwing up one of the crucial steps, getting dialed in was necessary to overcome their deficiencies.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established, Proverbs 16:3.

If you enjoy watching sporting events, whether its college, professional or the Olympics, most athletes are shown listening to wireless headphones prior to their competition.  Like any profession, there is a set schedule leading up to competitions, games and meets.  Certain styles of music have a way of preparing minds to focus.  While some may be more superstitious than others, listening to your favorite songs prior to competing is a common form of getting dialed in today.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, Romans 12:2.

Within a letter to the Church at Rome, the apostle Paul informs Christians on how to get dialed in spiritually.  Understanding the power of the sinful nature, Galatians 5:16-18, Paul warns believers that your mind must be renewed by the words of the Bible.  Unless a spiritual discipline of reading and studying the Bible is implemented, individuals are at risk of conforming to the world.  Therefore, if you want to get dialed in spiritually, follow the directions in Joshua 1:8 so that God’s voice and will become clear.

by Jay Mankus

The Final Season

In 1983 I was an incoming high school freshman eager to participate in a fall sport.  At 100 pounds and five feet tall, I was too small for football.  Concord’s soccer team had just won a state title so nearly one hundred boys tried out to make this team.  Fortunately, our paper boy was a runner, making the sports section of Wilmington’s News Journal after each race.  When I found out the cross country team didn’t cut anyone, I started my first of what I thought would be four seasons.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it, 1 Corinthians 9:24.

While running 5-8 miles a day in the heat wasn’t initially appealing, the individuals on Concord High’s cross country team welcomed me like I was joining a new family.  The aches and pains of running were soothed by loving teammates who accepted me despite my size and stuttering.  As the youngest child of three whose sisters were both in college as I entered high school, cross country quickly became my extended family, caring for one another before and after each race.  What other sport do you find complete strangers hugging one another after a race or holding someone up after collapsing at the finish line so they don’t cramp up.

Someone said to Him, “Look! Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside asking to speak to You.” 48 But Jesus replied to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples [and all His other followers], He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven [by believing in Me, and following Me] is My brother and sister and mother,” Matthew 12:48-50.

This encouraging environment has made me an advocate for cross country.  While serving as a youth pastor in Indiana, I spent Saturday’s cheering on teenagers from my church.  As a former runner, I was able to counsel the disappointed and motivate others to continue to improve.  Running distances from 2.1 to 3.1 miles requires trial and error, going out at various paces to determine the best strategy for each course.  The elite often use large invitationals as throw away races to see how fast they can go out before they die, falling way off the pace.  While watching the Corinthian Games, similar to the Olympics, the apostle Paul writes about mental toughness, pushing your body to the limit to reach your full potential in the passage below.

Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither]. 26 Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service], 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.

In my final year of teaching, I was fortunate enough to coach my two boys at Red Lion.  The previous coach set up a running club three days a week for elementary students to go along with coaching the junior high team.  This allowed Daniel to run with his older brother James., creating a competitive atmosphere.  Recognizing where I was as a runner at this age, I implemented fun days to keep the casual runner interested, giving 8th graders input to choose a fun practice each week.  Meanwhile, I pushed eager runners toward qualifying for the Yes Athletics National Championships as the East Regional was held an hour south of our school.  Over a 3 year period, I drove runners to nationals at Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.  This experience enabled students to compete against the best runners in the country.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-2.

Over the past 7 years, I have been a cross country parent, watching my two sons run for St. George’s.  Since my daughter Lydia has fallen in love with volleyball, Daniel’s senior year will be my final season attending Cross Country races.  Before I become a volleyball groupie, the reality of saying goodbye to cross country will be sad.  However, I do have a unique opportunity to run in a 5K prior to this fall’s county race known as the Old Timers Race.  Unfortunately, this requires getting into shape and running in the heat.  I haven’t started training yet, but as Daniel’s first race approaches this week, running to various mile marks with serve as  a warm up.  There is an old saying that states “Father Time remains undefeated.”  Yet, God has given me one final season to seize each day that I am blessed to watch my son Daniel complete.

by Jay Mankus

 

Amplify, Clarify and Don’t Intrude

America lost one of their greatest sports broadcasters of all time last week.  Keith Jackson spent 40 years with ABC television before retiring in 2006.  The voice of Jackson allowed him to cross over into a plethora of events from the Wide World of Sports, Major League Baseball, College Football, Monday Night Football, Nascar and the Olympics.  In one of his final interviews, Jackson revealed the secret to his longevity: amplify, clarify and don’t intrude.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 1 John 5:3.

The first two words of advice go hand in hand.  Amplify refers to developing, elaborating upon and fleshing out what you are watching for the average fan.  The latter, clarify, is the act of clearing up any confusion, filtering out what’s really happening so that the televised game can be enjoyed in it’s purest form.  At the end of his career, Keith Jackson focused on college football, broadcasting PAC 10 on the west coast where he lived.  Catch phrases like Whoa Nellie will be forever tied to Keith’s voice.

And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 1 Thessalonians 4:11.

One of the things I notice today is that modern commentators, journalists and media pundits do the opposite of Jackson.  Instead of avoiding intrusion, ideas of fame and fortune have inspired self seeking individuals to become a part of the story rather than just report it.  These impure motives are ruining entertainment as celebrities, the elite and hosts now feel like anyone needs to hear their opinions and political beliefs.  If these trends advance, ratings will continue to plummet.  Perhaps, it’s time to listen to an expert, a legend who lived by 3 simple mottos: amplify, clarify and don’t intrude.

by Jay Mankus

 

A National Anthem in Crisis

Prior to the events in New York City and Washington D.C. on September 11th 2001, the relationship between sporting events and the playing of National Anthems had become a mundane ritual.  If you take away the Olympics, playoffs and the Super Bowl, anthems were rarely ever televised.  Some professional sports even played anthems while players were still in the locker room.  However, post 9/11 the singing of Francis Scott Key’s song united this nation for a minute or so daily.  I was in Philadelphia for the first National Football League Monday Night Football game following this terrorist attack.  When a flag the shape of the United States was displayed across the entire field, the crowd went crazy, setting the stage for an emotional national anthem.  Those professional athletes who have chosen to kneel or sit have forgotten what the national anthem represents.  As more begin similar displays as a protest, the future of America’s national anthem is in jeopardy.

Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! – Psalm 105:2

As a former teacher, I understand pressure to remove the national anthem at professional sporting events isn’t the end but the beginning of an attempt to erase any trace of God from American history.  During homeroom or over a loud speaker, public schools read a daily passage or verse from the Bible up to the early 1960’s.  The reading communicated a morale, trait or value teachers hoped to instill within their students.  When a few atheists were offended, a law suit followed that removed the Bible permanently from public education.  When schools obliged others were upset about students and teachers praying for each other.  This too was banned, stripping God’s influence from the classroom.  Looking back at history, schools have never been the same as God has removed his own blessing from those who have not made room for Him.  Then, there was the 10 commandments, “surely we can’t allow human beings to read and see these rigid rules.”  Today, religious leaders are arrested if 10 commandment statues aren’t removed from all court buildings.  Finally, there is the pledge of allegiance which has been made optional for children or simply discarded all together.  If the national anthem is silenced, there’s always something else atheists, leftists and progressives will deem offensive.

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted, Isaiah 49:13.

I hope the owners of professional sports teams don’t cave to public pressure like weak minded republicans more interested in gaining approval from the press rather than upholding American values.  During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to drain the swamp.  When this promise was made, I don’t think Trump realized how deep and dangerous this resistance would be.  While the media continues to label the Trump presidency as the worst ever, the horizon appears to be void of any leaders willing to stand up for the national anthem.  Sure, there may be some closet defenders, afraid to vocalize their opinions.  Yet, America appears to be on the verge of a social war between the past and the present.  As someone who grew up in a military family, respect was impressed upon me.  Unfortunately, some where along the way respect for God and country has slowly faded away.  In view of this decay, may God raise someone up to carry the torch for the National Anthem so that this treasured tradition does not disappear like those now forgotten.  Stand up and sing, thanking God for all the Lord has done for this land called America.

by Jay Mankus

 

It’s Just Good to Be Alive

In this political age, if a news story doesn’t fit the progressive agenda, its either buried in the back pages of a newspaper, overlooked for something more news worthy or skipped completely.  Human interest stories are usually saved for the Olympics, great fillers for down time during a broadcast.  Thus, many amazing events are never told and forgotten by time.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it, Matthew 16:25.

For this very reason, I feel compelled to share a miracle that I witnessed yesterday.  Ninety nine percent of the time I watch a sporting event, my main concern is the final score.  Did my team win?  How did they play?  Who is living up to their potential and who’s struggling?  Yet, after talking to a couple on the sixth hole at Odessa National, I came to the conclusion that it’s just good to be alive.

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 6:35.

As St. George’s played St. Elizabeth in golf, this may be the first time ever in high school history that a cancer survivor played with a teammate who has juvenile diabetes.  Quincy battled for his life last year while my son Daniel lived despite having a blood sugar level over one thousand last August.  While their journey’s have been different, Quincy’s father taught me an important lesson.  Winning or losing isn’t what matters in life.  Rather, when you see two boys walking down the fairway together, it’s a blessing to just be alive.

by Jay Mankus

Taken Away

In the 1972 Men’s Basketball Olympic Gold Medal Game, the buzzer sounded twice at the end of the game with the United States leading 50-49.  However, the officials stopped the game a final time, putting 3 second back on the clock.  On the third attempt, the U.S.S.R. caught a long inbound pass and scored a two point basket as time expired.  Despite an appeal to the Olympic Committee, the final score was upheld giving the gold medal to the Soviet’s squad.  Today, the silver medals of this team remain in a Swiss bank vault, unclaimed as their gold medal was taken away.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it, Matthew 16:25.

You don’t have to be an athlete to have something taken away.  A car accident may leave an individual paralyzed.  Some sort of rare illness can steal the health of a young and formerly energetic soul.  Meanwhile, careers, jobs and relationships may end prematurely, without your consent or failed attempts to save them.  Whenever you endure heartbreak, these moments in time may take years to overcome.  Somethings in life just aren’t fair and what’s worse God tends to be receive the blame for most of life’s troubles.

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 6:35.

As God closes the door abruptly on one aspect in your life, faith is what gets individuals through periods of darkness.  Although the day light may not come soon enough, an invisible source will stand by your side.  Promising the Holy Spirit, Jesus foresaw a time when things would be taken away on this earth.  Subsequently, when this day arrives, its essential to turn your attention toward the bread of life.  Don’t let what has been taken away from you develop into a life filled with bitterness and regret.  Rather, press on through days of darkness to find meaning and purpose in Christ.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

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