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Run into the Tower

As a former runner, my high school cross country coach used a series of different techniques to get our team into shape at the beginning of each season. One of my favorites is known as fartlek training. This intermixes walking, jogging, and sprinting. Depending upon the group you were placed in, the leader with a stop watch sets the pace and gives the command to switch every 2 to 5 minutes. Starting with power walking soon transitions into a steady jog until you go all out, as fast as you can go, until this cycle is repeated several times.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the [consistently] righteous man [upright and in right standing with God] runs into it and is safe, high [above evil] and strong, Proverbs 18:10.

King Solomon uses the Hebrew word לרוץ at the end of the passage above. Solomon could have used הליכה to command his children to walk into God’s strong tower. Another option was to זה מה שאני עושה, by elevating the sense of urgency to a jog. Rather, Solomon doesn’t want people to be apathetic or distracted. Thus, when you find yourself surrounded by a world filled with darkness, run toward to the Lord’s strong and safe tower. This level of urgency is found in those who are upright and in right standing with God.

The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as a high protecting wall in his own imagination and conceit, Proverbs 18:11.

Unfortunately, the gifted, talented, and wealthy often exchange God’s tower for a high wall that they build on their own. Solomon compares this type of person with conceited individuals who possess a great imagination. The apostle Paul refers to a similar character flaw in Galatians 6:7. While things may go well for you for a while, those who trust in themselves will eventually become worn out by living outside of God’s strong tower. In view of this spiritual reality, run into God’s tower.

by Jay Mankus

The Words You Speak

After experiencing another disappointing month, I find myself in the middle of a moral dilemma. Since the fall began, I have told family and friends of my aspirations to get back into shape, start eating healthier and lose weight. The climax of this preparation was a 5K that I ran last weekend. Well, after spewing endless words of my desire to change and improve my life, the only thing I accomplished was completing this race without walking.

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth, Ecclesiastes 7:1.

While driving home from work yesterday, I received a rhema from God in the form of a question. Are the words that you speak making you more or less credible? The Old Testament doesn’t use modern terms such as character, integrity or reputation. Rather, authors use the expression earning “a good name” instead. King Solomon compares a good name with a precious ointment. After accumulating wealth as Israel’s leader, Solomon claims that when you receive favor from your peers due to a good man, it’s more valuable than silver or gold.

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold, Proverbs 22:1.

If you want to develop and keep a good name, the words you say play a big role. For example, many Americans don’t like president Trump’s blunt nature, boldly speaking and tweeting brash comments daily. Yet, anyone who examines the promises Donald Trump made during the 2016 presidential campaign, his actions have fulfilled what he said and vowed to do. Unfortunately, I find myself telling my wife and kids that I am going to do this and that without following through. Just as faith without deeds is dead, James 2:26, words without action are meaningless. May God use my own conviction to inspire you to ensure that the words you speak coincide with your actions.

by Jay Mankus

Entitle…mints

Infants spend the first few years of life eating and sleeping.  Shortly after this stage, crawling, walking and talking takes over their attention.  Yet, the sweet taste of mints, either with chocolate or pure sugar, leaves a longing that many children never forget.  This apparent harmless taste gives birth to a powerful force that few can tame.

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do, Galatians 5:17.

Several authors of the Bible refer to an inner desire at odds with God.  Like an infant craving milk, if you don’t get what you want, anger erupts in the form of crying.  While adults are suppose to grow out of adolescence, occasional tantrums still exist.  When expectations aren’t met or satisfied, fits of rage replace childish rants of the past.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me, 1 Corinthians 13:11.

Perhaps, this sinful pattern inspired the words written above.  A sense of entitlement trains minds to believe “this belongs to me, I deserve this and that’s mine.”  Despite growing up physically, letting go of entitle mints is a tough habit to break.  This vicious cycle causes growing pains to continue throughout life no matter how old you become.  Nonetheless, I still strive to put aside childish ways so that I can become the man God wants me to be.

by Jay Mankus

Walking in Freedom

Whether you prefer the day or at night, taking a walk with a friend or friends often yields fond memories.  Beside the exercise, special bonds can develop as one opens their heart to another soul.  Looking back in time, some of the best conversations I have ever had on earth occurred while taking a walk.

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. – Psalm 119:45

One of the most famous walks in the Bible occurred over a 7 mile stretch, from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Luke 24:13-35.  Following the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples were trying to make sense of the events that had just taken place.  This hour long conversation involved a mystery guest, listening to the voices of these men.  Distracted by an eagerness to speak, Jesus’ presence was overlooked.  Playing coy, Jesus pretends to know nothing, asking question after question along the way.  Based upon the topic in Luke 24:25-30, unbelief was keeping these individuals from walking in freedom.

As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. – Luke 24:14

Psalm 119:43-48 provides instructions on how to reach this spiritual state.

1) Preserve your lips with God’s truth, verse 43.

2) Resolve to obey God’s laws, verse 44.

3) Seek God’s precepts on a daily basis, verse 45.

4) Boldly proclaim God’s ways to the leaders on earth, verse 46.

5) Delight in and embrace God’s commands, verse 47.

As soon as believers pray for and mediate on God’s Word, little by little, you will begin to walk in freedom.

by Jay Mankus

The Origin of Blessings

The concept of blessings is a central focus of God’s covenant relationship beginning in the book of Genesis.  This term is mentioned over 600 times in the Old Testament.  Following the fall of human beings in the Garden of Eden, God countered the curse of Genesis 3:14-17 with a promise of blessings to Abraham and his descendents, Genesis 12:3.  However, this promise comes with a condition of obedience and if individuals stray from these commands this pattern can be reversed in the form of curses, Deuteronomy 27-28.

The Psalmist provides more concrete examples of blessings as well as how one arrives at becoming blessed.  The foundation of blessings derives from a blameless state, Psalm 119:1.  This process is achieved over time keeping the Bible’s statutes, seeking God with all your heart and walking in the ways of the Lord, Psalm 119:2.  To arrive at this desired goal, though perfection is unattainable, careful attention must be paid to decrees, avoiding short cuts and eliminating wrong from the equation, Psalm 119:3-4.  Passing the torch from one forefather, Moses, to another, advice has been passed on to maintain blessings, Joshua 1:8.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.Joshua 1:8

Today, there are various beliefs, opinions and views on why someone is successful or not.  Yet, history contains examples of people, families and nations that were blessed over time as well as countless who experienced one disappointment after another.  Although the thought of being blessed by God is exciting, the work that goes along with this commitment can be exhausting.  Human nature causes even the strong to get side tracked and wander away from the truth.  Therefore, if you want to find God’s favor in 2015, follow the steps mentioned in Deuteronomy 28:1-2, Matthew 6:33-34 and Galatians 5:25.  Go with God and the Lord will walk by your side.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33

by Jay Mankus

 

The Place of Silence

When I arrived earlier than normal to school in my teaching years, I felt like I had time to converse before the first bell signaled the beginning of another hectic day.  Scanning the hallways, I discovered a place of silence.  Walking back to the teacher’s lounge, the students present were tuned out, listening to music with ear buds on,  preventing any chances for a meaningful conversation.

Modern parents have been convinced by government agencies that spanking is wrong.  Thus, fear has been replaced with the silent treatment.  Unfortunately, sending kids to time out isn’t always punishment.  While the social may feel like they have been sent to solitary confinement, quiet children enjoy the place of silence.

Psalm 115:7 introduces the Bible’s readers to a new concept of hell, the place of silence.  This imagery brings a new perspective of hell, combining loneliness with time out.  When your time on earth runs out, there only 2 possible destinations, heaven or hell.  Either you will find a destination where your cries for help go unheard.  Or you will enter a place where your tears will be wiped away.  Take the advice of Moses by choosing life today, Deuteronomy 30:15-17.

by Jay Mankus

A Jukebox of Memories

Before the days of cell phones and personal computers, a jukebox connected individuals at local restaurants.  Portrayed in sitcoms like Happy Days, placing a coin in the jukebox and selecting a hip song  often inspired young people to join the dance floor.  Thus, music enhanced the life of teens creating jukebox memories.

As technology advanced, diners began to install miniature jukeboxes in each booth, enabling guests to interact while listening to their favorite songs.  Over time, music became associated, linked and tied to special moments in time.  Whether you were traveling somewhere on vacation, going out on a date or enjoying your prom, music etches memories within our minds.

Today, I can be shopping in a local grocery store, driving in my car or walking down Main Street when I hear a song from my past.  Within seconds, my mind takes me back in time, reminiscing about where I was, who I was with and the friends I made along the way.  Through the good and bad, music is like a recipe to cure the blues in life.  Regardless of what you use to access modern music, may these devices provide soothing jukebox memories.

by Jay Mankus

The Sheep Without A Shepherd

If you’ve ever gone to a mall to people watch, it doesn’t take long to see who knows where they are going and who is lost, trying to find their way.  Whether you’re driving a car, searching for something you’ve misplaced or walking on a unmarked trail, everyone from time to time experiences the pain of loss.  In the midst of this crisis, a sense of helplessness paralyzes souls, making it obvious that no matter hard one tries, you can’t save yourself.

While traveling throughout towns and villages, Jesus observed the crowd of individuals following him.  Watching intently, tears began to swell up in his eyes, as Jesus saw this group as sheep without a shepherd, Matthew 9:35-36.  They were looking for something more in life, hoping that Jesus had the answer.  Like sheep aimlessly roaming the countryside, hungry hearts longed for meaning to life.

Today, the silent majority wonders when their Shepherd will return.  As chaos abounds, modern sheep have been led astray by false prophets, hypocritical leaders and the twisting of the Bible.  Exiting the church after high school or during college, pessimistic sheep are searching for alternative means to enter heaven’s gate.  Although some turn back, coming to their senses like the prodigal in Luke 15, a growing number remain sheep without a shepherd.

by Jay Mankus

 

Starving for Conversation

Everyone has their own warts, imperfections that prevent people from achieving peace and prosperity.  For me, my greatest weakness is the inability to slow down to enjoy, indulge or relax by conversing with co-workers, family and neighbors.  Thus, by the end of the day or week, I often find myself starving for conversation.

While a youth pastor in Indiana, I spent 50 hours a week minimum interacting with youth, parents and church staff.  Since my job description involved investing in relationships, I spent countless hours reclining, sharing and walking with a wide range of personalities.  Whether I was tubing in a lake, attending a sporting event or sitting on a dock having an impromptu Bible Study, these were my best years, bringing out my God given talents.

Now twenty years later, its time to reinvent myself as I hunger and thirst for meaningful conversations.  Starting with the beatitudes appears to be a logical starting place, Matthew 5:3-12, encouraging individuals to be listeners first.  From here, the apostle Paul provides good advice in Colossians 4:2-5, adding flavor to the conversations you encounter.  Perhaps, by applying these biblical principles, I will be content, satisfied by future conversations.

What advice do you have for others searching for fulfilling conversations?

by Jay Mankus

My Two Cents

During my junior year of college, I once attended a local church in Newark, Delaware, in walking distance of the University of Delaware campus.  Up to this point, I had never experienced a pentecostal worship service.  Beside realizing I couldn’t keep a beat or stay on clap with the regular members, something unusual happened during the tithe.  I have heard of 2 different offerings occasionally, one for the church and another for missions or a needy family.  However, this church had the quickest counters I have ever seen, informing the pastor after the song, there wasn’t enough money collected.

Since I was a typically college student at the time, poor with a few singles and some change in my pocket, I passed on my first opportunity to give.  Moments later, the pastor began preaching on Malachi 3:6-10, so I obliged giving nearly half of what I had in my wallet.  Just when I thought the actual sermon would begin, this preacher began to shout, “yelling you have to give until it hurts,” like the widow in Mark 12:41-44, informing the ushers to make one more pass around the pews.  Although the message he was trying to communicate was clear, this pastor’s tone turned my roommates and I off, never stepping foot into that church again.

I believe tithing is like going to church, reading the Bible or praying.  If someone forces you to do any of these biblical principles, you may agree to do it, yet there is a void which exists within your heart.  When you take ownership of your faith, you want to go to church, read the Bible and pray.  Therefore, your heart is the key to giving, which led the widow to offer up her 2 copper coins worth a fraction of a modern penny in Mark 12.  For what it is worth, my two cents are give in secret, Matthew 6:3-4 and give back to others what God has bestowed upon you, Galatians 6:9-10.

by Jay Mankus

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