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The Tree of Life and Knowledge

As a student at the University of Delaware who majored in Golf Course Design and Maintenance, I was forced to take Botany I and Botany II. These were probably two of the most boring classes that I ever experience, but I did learn tons about plants, especially their Latin names. Although I never studied the Tree of Life or Tree of Knowledge, I did learn about the century year old trees on campus. According to Revelation 22:1-2, the Tree of Life will bear 12 different kinds of fruit.

And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight or to be desired—good (suitable, pleasant) for food; the tree of life also in the center of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of [the difference between] good and evil and blessing and calamity, Genesis 2:9.

This miracle tree will yield a different fruit each month. Meanwhile, John infers that the leaves of the Tree of Life have the ability to heal nations. On the other hand, the Tree of Knowledge is thought to be a fig tree based upon Jewish and Christian traditions. I’m not sure what caused Eve to stare at a particular fig, low bearing fruit? Perhaps, hunger led to a second glance that planted the seed of sin within Eve’s heart. At some point, Adam and Eve talked about this as both gave in without a second thought.

 Blessed (happy and [c]to be envied) are those who cleanse their garments, that they may have the authority and right to [approach] the tree of life and to enter through the gates into the city, Revelation 22:14.

My favorite modern tree is the Japanese Cherry Tree. For the past 25 years, each Spring I waited for the pink flowers to bloom. While millions flock to Washington, D.C. each March to see white and pink cherry trees in full blown, all I had to do was walk out of my front door. Over the years, my kids have taken pictures in this tree to mark their growth. Since we moved this summer, next spring we’ll have to find another tree to celebrate. Then again, there will the tree of life awaiting in heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Is Winning Everything?

When you’re not a good student as a child, you try to find one aspect of life where you excel. As for me, stuttering prevented me from receiving positive recognition in class. The only thing I seemed to be good at was running. As my stick figure, skinny bones body began to fill in, winning little league games became a habit. Subsequently, I got addicted to winning as it became everything to me.

For whatever is born of God is victorious over the world; and this is the victory that conquers the world, even our faith. Who is it that is victorious over [that conquers] the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on that fact]? – 1 John 5:4-5.

This winning is everything attitude stuck with me until college. During my first semester at the University of Delaware, I rejected God like Peter who publicly denied knowing Jesus following his arrest, Mark 14:66-72. Although older neighbors warned me of the temptations on campus, I thought I could handle it. Indulging myself in the college party scene taught me a valuable lesson about the Lordship of Christ.

And this is that testimony (that evidence): God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who possesses the Son has that life; he who does not possess the Son of God does not have that life. 13 I write this to you who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) the name of the Son of God [in [c]the peculiar services and blessings conferred by Him on men], so that you may know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have life, [d]yes, eternal life, 1 John 5:11-13.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes brought me back to God. During a spiritual retreat on the campus of James Madison University, a burning conviction penetrated my heart. This gnawed at me all weekend until I jumped out of my chair at an open mic in the wee hours of Sunday morning. During this moment of public confession, I exchanged winning is everything for a will to make Jesus the Lord of my life, Romans 10:9-11. True inning on earth is making your eternal reservations for heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Where Do You Run When a Crisis Arises?

Jesus saw potential in a first century fisherman. According to Matthew 4:18-20, Peter and his brother Andrew were the first two disciples called by Jesus. While asking his twelve disciples a question, Peter is the first to answer correctly in Matthew 16:15-16. Jesus goes on to refer to Peter as a spiritual rock in Matthew 16:18. Yet, when a crisis arrived, Peter fell just like Adam and Eve in Matthew 16:22-23, a foreshadowing of Peter’s future denial of Jesus in Matthew 26:69-75.

[You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations, So that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed, 1 Peter 1:6-7.

Peter writes about his failure in the today’s passage. These words appear to come from a humbler and mature man of God. Whether Peter learned this from his conversation with Jesus in John 21 following the resurrection or time reflecting upon past mistakes, trials are necessary in order for Christians to grow spiritually. Likewise, Jesus’ earthly brother who doubted his older sibling also speaks to the role that temptations play in your life. This determines where you run when a crisis arrives.

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

While attending college at the University of Delaware, I met many Christians who used the phrase “Jesus in my crutch.” As someone who has broken my ankle and leg, I know the uncomfortable feeling of relying on crutches to walk until I got my casts off. Then I abandoned these crutches into a closet until my next accident. Yet, Jesus should be my crutch whether I’m healthy or hurt. The moment my Bible collects dust, or my prayers cease, I’m trusting myself and not God. The next time a crisis arises, may you run to God.

by Jay Mankus

When the Rich Become Poor and Poor Feel Rich

My first job after graduating from the University of Delaware was the Workcamp Coordinator for the Methodist Action Plan. I was a social worker who made $500 in my first summer of living in the real world. Since I couldn’t afford rent, I slept on a couch in my sister’s basement. I got hired as a part time youth director in the fall and did a series of odd jobs to survive. Financially, I was poor but spiritually I felt rich due to a number of godly relationships.

As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be proud and arrogant and contemptuous of others, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but on God, Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for [our] enjoyment, 1 Timothy 6:17.

While writing a teenager pastor, the apostle Paul warns Timothy of how members of his congregation will be influenced by wealth. Perhaps Paul is reflecting upon the beatitudes mentioned at the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:1-12. Jesus brings this mentality full circle in Matthew 6:33-34 as money devalues an individual’s trust in God. When wealth is used to make problems disappear, this spiritual obstacle makes many rich people poor in faith.

[Charge them] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal and generous of heart, ready to share [with others], 19 In this way laying up for themselves [the riches that endure forever as] a good foundation for the future, so that they may grasp that which is life indeed, 1 Timothy 6:18-19.

The happy medium between wealth and poverty is contentment. While doing a couple of mission trips in the mountains of Appalachia, I was stunned by their thankfulness for everything they owned. Despite having next to nothing in their homes, these were the happiest Christians I have ever met. As I have transitioned from a poor teacher at a Christian school to a member of the middle class, life gets more complicated the wealthier you become. Yet, when a generous heart joins a spirit of contentment, faith places life into its proper perspective. Subsequently, rich and poor is merely a state of mind.

by Jay Mankus

The Freedom from Religion Movement

When I was a senior in high school, I was naïve about the spiritual dangers that existed in college.  A few of my spiritual mentors who already spent a year away at college warned me about giving into temptation.  These concerns fell upon deaf ears, causing me to wander away from the Lord during my first semester at the University of Delaware.  If I only listened to one of Jesus’ disciples in the passage below, I could have avoided the bad habits and heartache that I experienced during this dark period of my life.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, 1 Peter 5:8.

One of the modern dangers that lurks in the distance is the Freedom from Religion Movement. The Freedom from Religion Foundation is an American non-profit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin, with members from all 50 states.  This organization was founded by atheists and humanists who seek to censor and or prevent prayer from taking place in public schools.  The leaders of this movement decided to run a commercial during Tuesday night’s Democratic Presidential Debate.  The attached ad speaks for itself, an eerie preview of the future.

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:18.

According to the apostle Paul, the best way to combat the Freedom from Religion Movement is through prayer.  As atheists rely on and use activist judges to take away religious freedoms, Christians need to keep alert by praying in the Spirit at all times.  When hope dies, the power of prayer fades.  Yet, if a concert of prayer begins within churches, communities and homes, hope can be restored.  Throughout history, one movement replaces another, seeking to accomplish it’s goals.  However, when God’s people stand in the spiritual gaps that exists, the Holy Spirit will be unleashed to ensure that the Jesus Movement prevails.

by Jay Mankus

What Are You Waiting For?

While attending a leadership trade school six months after graduating from the University of Delaware, I was challenged to expand my comfort zone.  Following eight hours in a classroom setting, nightly assignments forced me to go to local malls to develop my conversational skills by talking to complete strangers.  One of the more meaningful projects was creating a 25 year mission statement.  This involved career, ministry and personal goals that I wanted to accomplish before turning fifty.  As I approach the half century mark next month, I feel like time has passed me by.

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.

After getting married in 1995, my wife Leanne and I were active participants in youth ministry at a church in Bolingbrook, Illinois.  A mutual goal was to volunteer at a local church when our three children were teenagers.  Although I taught high school for a decade, my oldest son was in eighth grade my final year teaching.  For one reason or another, I find myself waiting for the perfect time which has now come and gone.  Subsequently, my oldest so James is married, Daniel is a senior in high school and Lydia a sophomore.  This week I heard God’s still small voice whisper, “what are you waiting for?”

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that,” James 4:13-15.

My daughter attended a youth group last year which she enjoyed.  This church provides a youth oriented church service on Friday night, but busy Spring and Summer schedules has kept our family from investing time there.  Just as the Holy Spirit convicted me earlier in the week, common sense is now pleading me with “what are you still waiting for?”  Perhaps, future blogs will share a proactive approach to God’s calling.  Yet, for now all I can say is that I have failed to invest my time wisely.  Therefore, it’s time to act now before our home becomes an empty nest.

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

 

The Disowning

Behind the scenes, there is a strategic attempt to disown the founding fathers of America.  This progressive movement is seeking to disown any leader who was influenced by religious or spiritual principles.  At some point in time dealing with that which is offensive has become more important than doing the right thing.  Subsequently, college professors, educational curriculum and mainstream media pundits are disowning that which made America the greatest country in the world.

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven,” Matthew 10:32.

During my five years as a student at the University of Delaware, I was fortunate to meet several foreign exchange students.  Many came to America hoping to make something out of their lives, perhaps doing better than their own parents.  I got to know most of these individuals through Intervarsity Christian Fellowship which met every Friday night on campus.  Once I grew out of the party scene, I began to hunger for something more in life.  Thus, Bible studies, campus events and prayer groups allowed me to dig deeper, drawer closer to God while developing godly friendships.

“But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven,” Matthew 10:33.

One girl that I met was from South East Asia.  Before Spring Break, she wrote her parents, informing them that she had recently made a decision to follow Jesus Christ.  Excited to share this news, it took almost a month to receive a return letter.  However, when she opened it, the response was shocking, disowned by her own family with no place to go home to after the Spring semester ended. While friends reached out to console her, most of us didn’t know what to say.  Unable to comprehend why Buddhists responded in this way, I guess her parents felt betrayed by leaving the only faith they knew.  After some time of contemplation, a few days before final exams began this girl stepped into the path of an oncoming train, committing suicide.

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me,” Matthew 10:38.

While this was a tragic event, there is another which has eternal consequences.  Before sending his disciples out on a trial run, Jesus is blunt, clearing communicating his expectations.  There is no half-way for a follower of Jesus, you’re either all in or you’re not with God.  These high standards explain why so many turned away.  Today, there is public pressure to deny the Bible, it’s principles and teaching.  Those who do so are applauded and praised by the media.  However, this disowning fulfills Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:5.  Those who don’t deny Jesus face daily judgment, persecution and ridicule.  In the end, do you want to receive praise from mankind while being disowned by God?  Or do you endure hardship for the meantime, live as an outcast, yet receive recognition in heaven?  This is the dilemma of the disowning, where two worlds collide.

by Jay Mankus

Discernment, a Weather Forecast or None of the Above

My favorite college professor at the University of Delaware taught Physical Geography.  During my interactions with Dr. Mather, he urged my to pursue a career in Meteorology.  Beside a Major League Baseball hitter, what other occupation allows you to be wrong 80% of the time and still keep your job.  Although his teaching made me eager to learn about weather systems, I felt called to go into youth ministry after graduating from college.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them, 1 Corinthians 12:4.

Following a semester of teaching poetry to junior high students at a boarding school in West Virginia, I sensed an ability to discern hidden things.  This gift initially took the shape of writing, ranging from poetry, song writing and short stories.  However, fourteen years ago this week God revealed an a new venue.  One night, I couldn’t sleep, feeling like someone I knew was in trouble.  So I started to pray for everyone I could think of when I heard a knock on our front door.  My next door neighbor went to labor, three months premature.  This time of prayer continued until I got word she and her new daughter were okay.

There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work, 1 Corinthians 12:5-6.

When I was younger, I tried to be well round.  However, the older I become, it’s obvious that they are certain things I was never created and designed to do.  Thus, I press on, specializing in my areas of expertise.  Whether its discernment, a weather forecast or none of the above, strive to excel in what you do best.  As for me, I continue to write, hoping one day to be a successful author or screen writer.  Until this day arrives or my gifts shift in a new direction, I pray that the Lord honors the service of utilizing my God given talents.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

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