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When Misery Leads to Desperation

After graduating from college, I spent my first six months in the real world serving as a social worker. I made $500 for the entire summer before getting a part time job as a youth director. I made $100 a month, lived in my sister’s basement and slept on a couch. After being accepted to attend a Youth Ministry Trade School, I needed to raise $500. I volunteered at my home church, painting the entire basement, hoping to earn enough money. When my car broke down just before Christmas, I didn’t know how I was going to get to Minnesota, let alone pay for it. This moment of misery conceived a spirit of desperation to do whatever it took.

And He said, There was a certain man who had two sons; 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the part of the property that falls [to me]. And he divided the estate between them. 13 And not many days after that, the younger son gathered up all that he had and journeyed into a distant country, and there he wasted his fortune in reckless and loose [from restraint] living. 14 And when he had spent all he had, a mighty famine came upon that country, and he began to fall behind and be in want, Luke 15:11-14.

Jesus tells a story about a boy who was of a similar age. Based upon the passage above, this young man saw his surroundings as dollar bills. Instead of waiting his turn to receive his father’s inheritance, this selfish boy pressed the issue, convincing his father to divvy up a nice lump sum of money. The Parable of the Prodigal Son reminds me of Jason Stevens’ character in the film the Ultimate Gift. Spoiled by a billionaire uncle, Jason spent his families wealth in a lavish and reckless manner. This privileged lifestyle continued until Jason was left behind a series of gifts following his uncle’s death. After being cut off from his mother’s inheritance, poverty led to misery, being homeless led to desperation, sowing a seed to change.

So he went and forced (glued) himself upon one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed hogs. 16 And he would gladly have fed on and filled his belly with the carob pods that the hogs were eating, but [they could not satisfy his hunger and] nobody gave him anything [better]. 17 Then when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father have enough food, and [even food] to spare, but I am perishing (dying) here of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants, Luke 15:15-19.

You don’t have to be rich or poor to experience misery. If your career, job or life isn’t fulfilling, emptiness will conceive a desire to alter your course, direction or path. The longer you continue toward this dead end, souls will hunger for change. As soon as the prodigal son began to crave the sloop fed to pigs, he finally came to his senses. The moment misery hovers over you, human beings get restless, eager to get out of their predicament. As conditions worsen, desperation drives the helpless to act. May this blog remind you that it’s never too change to change, no matter how grim your current situation may be.

by Jay Mankus

While Money Can Buy Dreams, Families Leave a Legacy

I heard this expression during a sermon a few weeks ago. At the time, it sounded good, but didn’t strike a cord with my soul. After helping my younger son Daniel move into his college dorm room at Liberty University, I can see the parallel. Money gives individuals the opportunity to pursue a dream. However, what you do with college will leave behind some sort of legacy either good, bad or indifferent.

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome, Jeremiah 29:11.

The other night I watched the 2013 film the Ultimate Life. This is the sequel to the Ultimate Gift, following Jason Stevens’ journey in pursuit 12 gifts his grandfather Red Stevens left behind for him to achieve. The Ultimate Life follows Red Stevens life long pursuit to become a billionaire. As Jason Stevens goes through a mid life crisis, his grandfather’s lawyer unveils Red’s journal. As Jason begins reading, Red highlights crucial life lessons.

We will not hide them from their children, but we will tell to the generation to come the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonderful works that He has performed, Psalm 78:4.

Upon achieving his goal, Red Stevens’ eyes are opened to the sacrifices made at home along the way. After discussing the future with his wife, Red reveals a plan to leave a legacy with his children over a meal. Red decides to give each child $10,000 with the goal to give this money away to a needy cause. Unfortunately, only one child, Jay, donates his money with the others following in the footsteps of the prodigal, Luke 15:11-13. Anybody can say they are going to do the right thing, but legacies are built by putting Jesus’ words into practice, Matthew 7:24.

by Jay Mankus

A Marriage Makeover

In the beginning of this year, the Lord opened up my eyes to several areas in my life that I have neglected.  Unfortunately, my marriage of one of these, taking it for granted without putting the energy and time God desires for a Christian husband.  Thus, I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting and praying about the best solution to revitalize my marriage.  The answer has come in the form of a marriage makeover.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, Ephesians 5:25.

After having three kids, one of our favorite television shows to watch as a family was Extreme Makeover: Home Edition with Ty Pennington.  ABC and corporate sponsors gave families who were down on their luck or recovering from a loss to have a fresh start.  Movies like The Ultimate Gift and Fire Proof have added practical ideas to apply daily which individuals can alter their perspective on life and enhance their ability to love.  These influences have inspired me to put a formula for a marriage makeover into my movie script.

House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord, Proverbs 19:14.

In the last two weeks, I’ve heard two sermons which have convinced me that I am on the right track.  Since a portion of my current script has a couple going through marriage counseling, I hope that I am able to communicate and portray a useful tool for struggling couples.  In a society that is trading in marriages like a used car, I pray that the final edit of Dragged Behind the Devil’s Door will be the next film to impact America in a positive manner.  Below are the themes I have woven into my script.

  1. Turn the television off and begin to create your own reality show.
  2. Invest time weekly in an activity of the others choice, talking about it over dinner or a walk so you don’t stop getting to know one another.
  3. Serve one another by stopping what you are doing to listen, love and pray together.
  4. Display unexpected acts of kindness to ignite passion and physical intimacy.

by Jay Mankus

The Gift of Imperfection

Sports uses cards, errors, flags, fouls and misconducts to magnify mistakes made by participants.  The world isn’t as kind calling individuals frauds, hypocrites and losers when actions, behavior or words don’t live up to their expectations.  While the 2006 film The Ultimate Gift illuminated several gifts that people take for granted daily, one is missing from their list.  Perhaps the greatest of all is the gift of imperfection.

Although Jesus’ goal is to strive for perfection, Matthew 5:48, to obtain this is impossible.  Romans 3:9-12 breaks the bad news to mankind as everyone who has attempted this feat has failed at some point in their quest.   Since sin was conceived in the Garden of Eden, a generation of misfits have come up short, unable to please God, Romans 3:23.  Like a mad scientist going back to the drawing board, the sinful nature has foiled any hope of earning salvation on your own, Romans 6:23, requiring plan Z.

At the end of the road, hanging by a cross, Jesus has come to our rescue, Colossians 2:13-15.  Despite my intentions on wanting to control my own destiny, Jesus holds the keys to the kingdom, Matthew 16:19.  Therefore, I need to grasp the secret the apostle Paul discovered during an illness, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.  The gift of imperfection forces souls to place their entire trust in the hands of an unseen God.  The weaker one is, 1 Timothy 1:16, the stronger the Holy Spirit can become.  May you experience this special gift, securing your reservations for eternity, 1 John 5:13, by letting go through faith.

Feel free to comment or share a time when you were weak, but Christ was strong!

by Jay Mankus



The Last Gift
Since my father’s dad and mother’s mom died prior to my birth, I only knew 2 grandparents.  While my grandmother spoiled me with donuts and money, Grandpa Kautz and I developed a special bond through golf.  In his retirement, he worked part time at Hershey Country Club as a marshal and starter, able to play golf with his friends after each shift.  Before his health quickly faded, my wife and I were invited up for the day to play 18 holes on the East Course, a cherished memory I keep to this day.  A month following his funeral, my Aunt Marcia pulled me aside saying, “Paul wanted you to have this”, pointing to his set of Tommy Armour 845 irons.   Only a few years old, he knew I would appreciate them more than any other relative.  This was the last gift I received.

Beginning in John 12:20-36, Jesus pulled his disciples aside, revealing God’s plan for his life.  Trying to comfort their souls, Jesus conveys a message of hope, promising the Holy Spirit in John 14:15-31.  Jesus refers to a counselor who serves as a spirit of truth.  Continuing, Jesus makes a comparison to an orphan, vowing to provide relief to those who miss Jesus, John 14:18-19.  This promise became reality in Acts 2:1-4, as the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostle.  The man whom weeks earlier denied Jesus, afraid of being arrested or possibly meeting the same fate of Jesus, Peter is transformed by the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:14-39.  Jesus’ last gift provided a confidence his followers did not possess until after his ascension.

As time passed, some began to wonder if a Pentecost like Spirit was still possible.  The apostle Paul addresses this concern in Ephesians 19:1-6.  Verse 2 implies some believers had not even heard of the Holy Spirit.  However, when examining the original Greek text, the verse actually refers to receiving confirmation, a word from the Lord, on whether or not the Holy Ghost has ceased or continues to move as in the days of Pentecost.  Although this debate continues today, with most theologians clinging to the ceasing side, Joel 2:28 promises a mighty conclusion.  This prophet suggests that God’s last gift, will be poured out upon all people.  May you experience the presence of God like 2 Peter 1:3-4.

by Jay Mankus

The Not-So Ultimate Gift

One of my favorite movies of the last decade is The Ultimate Gift based upon Jim Stovall’s best selling book.  Completed in 2006, this movie centers around Jason Stevens, a pampered rich kid who never had to work a day in his life.  When his grandfather, Red Stevens dies, he is left with a series of 12 tasks called gifts.  Thinking riches are attached, Jason slowly begins to develop motivation to complete these assignments.  What Jason doesn’t realize, this wild goose chase ends up transforming his life from a spoiled brat into a responsible, self reliant man.

Unfortunately, I think I am living out this movie without any cameras, riches or progress.  My first assignment is the gift of unemployment which was bestowed upon me last February.  Inspired to complete a movie God placed in my mind, I spent hundreds of hours, often burning the midnight hour to finish a 90 page script.  A few temporary jobs later, rejection letters galore and daily road blocks, I am back where I started, faced with editing my script, redoing my resume and finding a permanent job.  Like the boy that cried wolf, Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, each day I experience is a not so ultimate gift.

The only thought I can grasp is that maybe all the strange circumstances I have encountered will make a great book one day like Bill Murray’s cross country trek in Larger Than Life with an elephant.  Hollywood can’t make up all of my bizarre happenings I have experienced: an undetective defect in my resume, a demon possessed computer, dead cell phones, false prophet encounters, sure thing leads that don’t materialize and following visions from my dreams without any results.  Despite my complaining, its only been 15 months, a far cry from Israel wandering in the wilderness.  If David had to wait for several years to become king of Israel, I guess I can suck it up until my not-so ultimate gift becomes the gift of work.

by Jay Mankus

Living the Ultimate Gift

Over the past month, I have replaced several fence posts at work.  Due to several severe storms in July, 3 different uprooted trees have destroyed several sections of fence posts where I work.  As I spent several hours this afternoon replacing these fence posts, I began to feel as if I was living the movie The Ultimate Gift.

Produced in 2006, Jason Stevens played by Drew Fuller, is a brat, spoiled by riches which surrounded him as a child.  After the death of his grandfather Red, a series of challenges as part of the will left for Jason takes him on an adventure that slowly changes his life.  Jason’s first gift is work, something he never had to do as an adult due to the excess of money given to him.  Not sure what to expect, Jason leaves for Texas to work on a farm, putting up miles of fence post by himself.

Jason doesn’t begin to take this first challenge serious until he begins to realize that once he is finished, he will receive his inheritance.  Although he doesn’t receive it right away, each challenge is a step toward maturity.  As God has humbled me over the past 8 months, I feel as if with each fence post I repair, God is teaching me a new lesson.  Though my inheritance will be in heaven, my journey is far from over, leaning on the Lord for understanding along the way, Proverbs 3:5-6.

by Jay Mankus

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