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Time of Your Life

The concept of “Time of Your Life” began with a 1939 play written by William Saroyan. In more recent years, movies like Dirty Dancing have brought songs with this concept in the title. I’ve Had the Time of My Life by Jennifer Warnes uses dancing as a means to have fun. Depending upon your hobbies and personality, the goal of any day is to have the time of your life.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten ([d]unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

When I look back on the past half-century, one year sticks out, 1993. I left a youth director position in Delaware to attend a youth ministry trade school in Minnesota. For 7 straight weeks, I was having the time of my life, living with other people my age who wanted to minister to young people. Not only was I transformed by the teaching I received, I also experienced a revival while living in Columbus, Indiana.

I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it [b]overflows), John 10:9-10.

When I was having the time of my life, I was also working 90 hours a week. My only day off began with a Bible Study at McDonald’s with students, followed by lunch in Cincinnati with my good friend Phil, and ended with an adult Bible Study back at church. When you’re having the time of your life, make sure you don’t burn yourself out like I did in 1994. Balance is crucial for developing stability and longevity. If I only knew this back then, I’d still be having the time on my life. For now, I’m trying to recapture what was lost.

by Jay Mankus

From I Can’t to God Can

For most of my childhood, I was extremely negative. As accidents happened over and over again, I developed a low sense of esteem. When you add to this a severe speech impediment, my thoughts quickly filled my mind with a I Can’t mentality. This doom and gloom became a self fulfilling prophecy as accidents, disappoint and failure followed me for more than a decade.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their distress and troubles. 18 The Lord is close to those who are of a broken heart and saves such as are crushed with sorrow for sin and are humbly and thoroughly penitent. 19 Many evils confront the [consistently] righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all, Psalm 34:17-19.

While I didn’t recognize this at the time, God began to send strong Christians into my life. My 8th grade Science teacher was like a modern day Jesus who daily lived out the Bible. As I reached high school, I was invited to attend the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but I kept saying no. I guess I was too cool for God. Yet, ungodly beliefs like “I’m not good enough” or I’ll never amount to anything” separated me from God.

I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want. 13 I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who [g]infuses inner strength into me; I am [h]self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency], Philippians 4:12-13.

By the middle of my sophomore year of high school, I became addicted to Jesus. As I started to attend Bible Studies with other Christian athletes, the negativity which once consumed me began to fade away. Subsequently, when a spiritual mentor introduced me to the passage above, I started to shed my I Can’t mindset. Following an amazing FCA summer camp experience, I was transformed from I Can’t to God can.

by Jay Mankus

A Fresh and New Way to Live

No matter how hard I try every year, at some point my life becomes stale. There are various reasons for this condition such as low energy, frustration due to a lack of progress and a lack of vision for the future. While my intentions are to seize each day that the Lord gives me, hope and optimism seem to fade quickly when things don’t go my way. Subsequently, I need to change this unhealthy pattern.

Therefore, brethren, since we have full freedom and confidence to enter into the [Holy of] Holies [by the power and virtue] in the blood of Jesus, 20 By this fresh (new) and living way which He initiated and dedicated and opened for us through the separating curtain (veil of the Holy of Holies), that is, through His flesh, Hebrews 10:19-20.

The author of Hebrews provides a plan for a fresh and new way to live. This begins by reflecting upon what Jesus did for the Jewish faith. Instead of being separated from God due to sinful tendencies, Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection 3 days later opened the door for sinners. Thus, you no longer need to travel to a temple so that a priest can offer a sacrifice for your sins. Rather, God’s grace has provided new access which was once limited to only high priests.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

An entire chapter of famous Jewish leaders illustrates what made these individuals different, Hebrews 11. On each occasion faith was the difference, trusting in an invisible God. The blood of Jesus has transformed the way New Testament Christians live, 1 Peter 3:18. Furthermore, once you make a public profession of faith, Romans 10:9-11, you have access to the power of the Holy Spirit which provides everything you need for life, 2 Peter 1:3-4. This is the fresh and new way to live, available to all who believe.

by Jay Mankus

Huh?

If you are like me, you have encountered conversations where you thought you were making a good point.  Unfortunately, at some point you realize the person you were engaging was not listening.  Subsequently, your words fall upon deaf ears as a friend replies, “huh, what did you say?”

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand, Hebrews 5:11.

In recent years, the concept of selective hearing has become a common practice.  Whether individuals are listening, talking or watching a person of interest, minds process only those things they like or relate to.  All other topics are discarded, forgotten as if they were never spoken.  A previous generation referred to this bad habit as being hard of hearing.

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! – Hebrews 5:12

From a spiritual context, any person of faith that becomes comfortable with who or where they are has a tendency to reject certain passages of the Bible.  This behavior stunts any type of consistent growth, resulting in wandering souls who experience emotional highs and lows.  If only these people could sharpen their hearing, perhaps lives would be transformed.  Yet, until Christians begin to feed themselves spiritually through daily Bible reading and prayer, you will continue to hear the lost proclaim,”huh, what did you just say.”

by Jay Mankus

Complications

Starting next week, a new drama will hit the airways entitled Complications.  Jason O’Mara plays Dr. John Ellis who is transformed by a life altering event, saving a young boy’s life after a drive by shooting.  A real life good Samaritan, Dr. Ellis is interrupted when the attackers return to finish the deal.  Faced with life or death, John kills one of the assailants, making his life much more complicated than the day before.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything, James 1:2-4.

Growing up, I gradually became disappointed by evangelists, pastors and teachers of the Bible who proclaimed an idealist approach to Christianity.  Although not verbatim, messages often included phrases like “just come to Jesus and all your troubles will go away.”  This story book ending never happened to me, nor did I ever meet someone who hasn’t experienced a series of complications in the form of trials.  This is the reality of the world we live in.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 8:38-39.

According to Jesus, every difficult situation individuals encounter is used to promote maturity, perseverance and growth.  Coaches, professional athletes and hard luck losers regularly tell reporters about learning more from a loss than from a victory.  Therefore, complications are merely opportunities to develop as a human being.  Along the long and winding road, there may be moments that appear hopeless.  However, in the end, God allows the good, bad and ugly to occur for his own glory.

by Jay Mankus

 

Empty Again

The saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” first appeared in 1602, published within Francis Davison’s Poetical Rhapsody.  This expression applies to several aspects in life.  Thus, while working nights since July, I began to miss some of the television shows I use to watch with my family.  Until Saturday, a marathon to check up on a few of my favorites, I forgot how empty entertainment can leave a soul, void of any significant meaning.

Although spending an entire day as a couch potato sounds appealing, boredom is a likely destination despite how many channels your cable or dish company provides.  According to Philippians 2:4, every human does need to be refreshed, before they can be of any benefit to others.  Yet, indulging in comedies, movies and sitcoms provide temporary pleasure before fading fast.  If you choose this path, emptiness is unavoidable.

Subsequently, individuals need to look in a different direction to experience a complete restoration.  Emptiness can be replaced by practicing Romans 12:1-2, leading to a transformed mind.  Depending upon your own desire, devotion and discipline, the timing on this change varies.  Whether you’re listening to or reading the Bible, Romans 10:17, faith will not disappoint, making the empty feel whole once again.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Importing Deities

Countries tend to import articles, goods or services when there is an increase in demand or no entity from within who can provide this in a timely manner.  However, spiritual elements are imported daily, often going unnoticed by citizens.  These subtle deities contain hidden powers, fueled by demonic strongholds that exist throughout the world.  If not rejected and deported, hearts, minds and worldviews will be transformed, shifting the beliefs of a nation.

According to C.S. Lewis, apologetics involves finding common areas and beliefs that you share with other world religions.  His logic is based upon one simple principle, “no one want’s to hear that you are right and everyone else is wrong,” Mere Christian, Book 2, chapter 1.  When it comes to importing deities, no one is as resolute as Islam.  Meanwhile, several Christian denominations have begun practicing Syncretism, blending practices not found in the Bible, Deuteronomy 4:2, with the Christian faith.

As Israel approached the promised land, a similar temptation arose to import gods from Egypt.  Leviticus 17:7 suggests that some had already carried foreign traditions with Israel into the desert.  Laying down the law, through the words of Moses passed down from generation to generation, this command still applies, importing foreign deities is prohibited.  Going forward, make sure you practice 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, testing everything you hear or read with the truths of Scripture.  By doing this, you will protect your mind from further harm, 2 Corinthians 10:5.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

No Reason to Pretend

In order to put on a happy face, some individuals feel compelled to hide their misery from co-workers, family and neighbors.  Like a Halloween masquerade party, many profess to be fine all the while anguish, grief and pain collect.  Although the motto “fake it until you make it” sounds logical, there is no reason to pretend.

From a mere vocational point of view, the last 5 years of my life have been like a hurricane, causing flood waters to break through levy’s.  As the storm surge continues to rise, my heart, soul and mind cling to promises of the Bible, hoping the trials subside soon.  When success reigned supreme, life was a piece of cake.  However, as turmoil entered my life through the winds of change, I’m not the same person.

Sure, I try to stay upbeat, but I am a mirage of my younger years, a piece of drift wood transformed by time, wind and water.  Water logged, especially around the waist, I long for dry land, a beach to call home.  Footprints along the shore are obvious signs that God has been carrying me.  When the waves calm, I will arise, perhaps wiser than before.  Like a work in progress, a strand of clay in the molding process, there is no reason to pretend it isn’t well with my soul.  Yet, I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me, Philippians 3:12-14.

Don’t be afraid to be transparent; real so that a hurting world can see the only thing holding believers together, Romans 5:5.

by Jay Mankus

Boundaries, Bounties and Blown Opportunities

I witnessed a pastor go old school today, committing what some may call social suicide.  Taking no prisoners, this man of the cloth convicted households who display little boundaries or prefer to be their child’s best friend.  When parents don’t say no, define acceptable perimeters or clarify right from wrong behavior for their children, kids become one with the world.  Instead of being transformed by the word of God, Romans 12:1-2, teenagers are becoming like dust in the wind, blown from one trend to the next.

Today, more than ever, society has been turned upside down, just watch any commercial airing in prime time which ties sex to their products.  In the Wild West, cities and town offered bounties for anyone who were able to help authorities catch a criminal wanted for a hideous act.  If only an entrepreneur had enough money to offer rewards for good behavior, perhaps this country might return to its Judeo-Christian heritage.  Unfortunately, lines drawn in the sand keep moving, enforced differently by the government, leaders and schools, resulting in a generation of confusion.

From my own perspective, its frustrating to look back on all the blown opportunities I missed as a father.  Depression, fatigue and time have chipped away the standards I want to consistently uphold for my family.  Although I would like to turn the clock back, all I can do is look to history to avoid future failures.  Essentially, I need to become a Moses’ like figure, clearly communicating God desires for daily living, Exodus 19:3-6.  The best advice for anyone wrestling with parenting is found in Proverbs 22:6, “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  May the words of the Bible provide blueprints for youth and adults struggling to identify absolutes, Psalm 119:105.

by Jay Mankus

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