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Exercising Your Personal Convictions

As most gyms across the country have been closed due to the Coronavirus, anyone who wants to exercise needs to be creative. Perhaps, you might go old school, doing sets of push ups and sit ups at home. Others might have the luxury of an exercise bike. rowing machine or stair master sitting around the house. Whatever you decide, exercising your personal convictions require a little more discipline.

Your personal convictions [on such matters]—exercise [them] as in God’s presence, keeping them to yourself [striving only to know the truth and obey His will]. Blessed (happy, to be envied) is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves [who does not convict himself by what he chooses to do], Romans 14:22.

During the first century, Jews who converted to Christianity often faced internal struggles. When you are taught specific guidelines on what to eat and what not to at an early age, spiritual freedom can be dangerous. Does a conscientious individual disregard everything that they have been taught or be open to eating that which was once considered unclean.? This issue appears to be important to the apostle Paul, spending nearly two chapters in his letter to the church of Rome on exercising convictions.

But the man who has doubts (misgivings, an uneasy conscience) about eating, and then eats [perhaps because of you], stands condemned [before God], because he is not true to his convictions and he does not act from faith. For whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin [whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful], Romans 14:23.

The passage above likely struck a nerve. When convictions do not originate and proceed from God, Paul considers this a sinful act. Doubts have a way of infiltrating your personal convictions. If you are not firm or easily persuaded by others, you become vulnerable. The key is holding fast to your beliefs is taking God with you while making a decision. If you exclude God from your thought life, obeying God’s will be compromised. Thus, the more you exercise your convictions, the easier it becomes to walk in faith.

by Jay Mankus

When You Are Powerless to Act… Try a Different Kind of Fast (the Esther Fast)

Every January fitness centers across the country are filled with individuals trying to recover from poor diets, a lack of exercise or extra weight that seems impossible to shed. By the end of winter, many who fail to see any change, progress or signs of transformation give up on their New Year Resolutions. Meanwhile, Christians who develop bad spiritual habits fight a similar battle. When reading the Bible becomes rare, praying feels more like a chore or getting up for worship doesn’t happen, you can reach a state where you feel powerless to act.

Then Mordecai told them to return this answer to Esther, Do not flatter yourself that you shall escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion? – Esther 4:13-14

There are several examples in the Bible where broken hearted individuals, who felt powerless to act, began to fast and pray for God to intervene. Unfortunately, sometimes I find myself so out of shape spiritually that I don’t have the commitment, focus and strength to follow in the footsteps of Daniel, Nehemiah and Moses. Yet, there is another option. The Book of Esther provides a different kind of fast. Instead of fasting and praying quietly on your own, Esther urges every Jew to fast for three days for her. The goal of this fast was to provide Esther with the words needed to persuade King Ahasuerus to overturn Haman’s decree to kill all the Jews.

Then Esther told them to give this answer to Mordecai, 16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me; and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I also and my maids will fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish. 17 So Mordecai went away and did all that Esther had commanded him, Esther 4:15-17.

This was a life or death matter. From Esther’s perspective, she wasn’t able to fast, not wanting to insult the king by not eating the food prepared for her each day. Thus, Esther was forced to rely on God’s people to intervene, praying for a miracle, the right words to say or justice to prevail. Imagine if local churches, communities and followers of Christ began Esther Fasts each week, focusing on a needy cause, person or soul? When you are powerless to act, don’t be afraid to reach out for help by requesting others to fast and pray for you. I pray that the concept of a Esther Fast will take root in 2020, awakening souls, renewing faith and energizing the body of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Exercise and Discipline

I am currently in the middle of an 8 week exercise program designed to help get my fifty year old body back into shape.  Similar to a building block, each week adds additional disciplines, exercises and reps.  It’s one thing to say that you are going to run first thing in the morning or workout after coming home from work, but executing this plan is much more difficult than I thought.  Thus, the only way to endure, improve and strengthen my body is through exercise and discipline.

Therefore I always exercise and discipline myself [mortifying my body, deadening my carnal affections, bodily appetites, and worldly desires, endeavoring in all respects] to have a clear (unshaken, blameless) conscience, void of offense toward God and toward men, Acts 24:16.

During his opening argument in a hearing before Governor Felix in Rome, the apostle Paul refers to a different kind of exercise and discipline.  This statement points to 3 aspects which every individual must overcome: carnal affections, bodily appetites and worldly desires.  While these inner demons appear to be similar, each attack, tempt and wrestle for control of your body.  When faith is not exercised and discipline not enforced, addiction and bad habits ravage unprepared souls.

Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

The apostle Paul uses an analogy of a long distance runner and boxer to illustrate what it takes to spiritually exercise and discipline your faith.  While I know nothing about boxing, I can speak to Paul’s comment about running with a definite aim.  Before running, stretching must occur to loosen up muscles to avoid injury.  Like my current exercise program, running should start at a short distance, then gradually incease distances each week.  Cutting corners, skipping a step or jumping ahead often results in a weaker body.  Thus, the most logical starting place for exercise and discipline is to take life one day at a time; improving with each passing day.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Waiting for Good Things to Come

Waiting is contrary to human nature.  When you see something that you like or want, the concept of waiting seems pointless.  Yet, as I look back on my on life, there are certain things that I wasn’t ready to possess.  A lack of maturity, given something instead of earning it and forcing the issue are all contributing factors.  Perhaps, waiting is a tool God uses to prepare individuals for the future.

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him, Lamentations 3:25.

When you don’t have the financial means to afford a place to live, food to eat or resources like a vehicle, even atheists may offer up prayers for their current situation to improve.  If there is no one on earth to lean on, its only natural to look up the heavens and hope for better days.  The Bible encourages souls to seek God instead of seeking alternative routes or taking short cuts.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:14

David compares waiting to a spiritual exercise like working out.  Waiting requires a gut check, seeing if you have what it takes to stick it out.  This process involves concentration, focus and a willingness to finish what you start.  Those who receive what they have been waiting for tend to appreciate what they now have.  Therefore, if you want to pursue a noble cause, trust God as you wait for good things to come.

by Jay Mankus

When Your Let Your Body Go

If once active adolescents become inactive as adults, gaining weight is almost a certainty.  When I was a senior in high school, I was five feet eleven inches tall and one hundred and forty pounds.  A year later, I decided to not run cross country in college, gaining the freshman 25 immediately.  Playing intramurals the next four years kept my weight stable, give or take five pounds.  Over the next decade, I gained another ten pounds, but remained active as a teacher, youth director and assistant golf professional.

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. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

Unfortunately, I gained another 20 pounds the first year I was married.  However, it’s not what you think.  Since I lived in the country, neighbors didn’t keep their dogs on leashes.  Thus, as I attempted to run a few times a week, dogs chased me for a half mile at a time.  After sprinting on and off, I finally gave up as the setting was safe enough to run.  Using my life as a case study, our bodies get use to a specific schedule.  Whether this is running, training or working out, this exercise stabilizes our weight.  Yet, when people like me alter routines without a substitute to take it’s place, it’s easy to lose control of your body.

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

Recently, I have come to the conclusion that I am fighting a losing battle as each time I lose weight, it returns within a month.  While I am not giving up, perhaps I need to change my perspective.  Exercise is a healthy habit to practice, but godliness has value in every aspect in life.  Therefore, I need to let go of my frustrations for a body out of shape and switch my concentration toward my soul.  Just as body builders draw the attention of those in fitness centers, Christians should elicit the same response to strangers in public.  Those who develop a daily time of Bible Study, prayer and worship start to become spiritually pumped up.  These habits often fuel a desire to become more like Jesus.  While I would love to physically return to the body I once possessed, it’s better to demonstrate the light of God’s love through random acts of kindness.

by Jay Mankus

Watch Out for The Easy Way Out

One of the more teachable moments in Hollywood comes from a scene from A League of Their Own.  When the Rockford Peaches star catcher played by Gina Davis quits the team, manager Tom Hanks confronts her before driving home with her husband.  Davis’ excuse was that “it got too hard.”  Hank’s response, “It’s suppose to be hard, if it wasn’t everyone would play.”  Thus, whether you are an athlete or trying to make the best of this life, make sure you don’t take the easy way out.

I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense, Proverbs 7:7.

In the past few weeks, I’ve struggled to put my priorities in order,  Subsequently, my time reading the Bible, praying and working out has been pretty lame.  I could take the Gina Davis approach, claiming its just too hard to keep up with, perhaps taking a holiday from God.  On the other hand, each day without God brings me closer and closer to person in Proverbs 7:7, deteriorating what common sense that I still possess.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it, Matthew 7:13.

In the famous poem known as Footprints, 2 sets of footprints become one while walking on the beach.  This imagery suggests that sometimes God carries us when we can’t go any further.  As you read this blog, maybe you’re exhausted, tired or ready to give up the fight.  Before you decide, make sure you don’t succumb to the easy way out.  Pray, show resolve and hang tough!

by Jay Mankus

 

Pumping Iron: A Spiritual Guide to Working Out

The addition of Hans and Franz to State Farm’s Discount Double Check slogan has infused life into this ad campaign.  Known for their saying on SNL, “I want to pump you up,” Hans and Franz played by Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealson have become icons in today’s pop culture.  However, long before these two were ever born, another writer crafted a spiritual blueprint for pumping iron.

Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. – Psalm 119:98

The warm up to working out spiritually begins with the commands inside of the Bible.  When you read, reflect and mediate on God’s principles, you are exercising your mind.  Subsequently, over time, through a daily workout routine, you can become wiser than your enemies if you commit to spending time in God’s gym, the Word.

I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. – Psalm 119:99

Following this warm up, an extensive study using commentaries, historical references and examining the meaning of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic phrases is like pumping iron.  Not like something that happens overnight, this discipline takes time to develop.  However, if you are faithful, spiritual muscles will blossom in the form of insight, becoming equal to and perhaps surpassing your teachers in life.

I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. – Psalm 119:100.

Finally, the cool down requires practicing what you learn daily, Matthew 7:24.  Unless you apply God’s Word, spiritual muscles will disappear into a fat and lazy soul.  Therefore, if you want to become the Hans and Franz of the Bible, obey the Lord’s precepts and in God’s timing, you will have more understanding than the elders.  God is waiting to pump you up; the only question is, are you willing to make the Lord a priority to see the results you desire, Matthew 6:33-34?

by Jay Mankus

An Extreme Spiritual Make-over

 And she gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn; and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room or place for them in the inn. – Luke 2:7

If I had to give an honest assessment, I too would have responded like the Inn Keepers in Bethlehem.  Similar to a vacation destination during Spring Break Week, the Roman Census quickly filled up all available accommodations.  Thus, the poor, unprepared and those stuck in traffic scrambled around like a male shopping for presents on Christmas Eve.  Only 1 person, a good Samaritan type, made room for Mary and Joseph.

In this day and age, distractions abound, pulling individuals in all sorts of directions.  Subsequently, scheduling time for God is usually the first to get cut or limited to a brief glance of a verse or two and a lame prayer.  Despite the lulls that may occur in a car, at home or during work, exhaustion keeps many from developing and or maintaining a healthy relationship with Jesus.  As I evaluate my 2014 calendar, I’m afraid I fit into Jesus’ harsh criticism of those follow the Lord with their lips, but not with their actions.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! – Matthew 7:21-23

If you too find yourself in this predicament, perhaps its time for an extreme spiritual make-over.  Philippians 2:12 suggests to begin working out your salvation with fear and trembling.  Solomon agrees, as fearing God in the beginning of knowledge, Proverbs 1:7.  When you allow the Holy Spirit to “Pump You Up,” missed opportunities of the past can lead to pivot points along your faith journey, Colossians 4:5.  In the end, make room for Jesus, whatever the cost, Matthew 16:24-27 so that one day you will hear from the King himself, “well done my good and faithful servant!”- Matthew 25:23

by Jay Mankus

 

A Day Away Can Lead to Years of Regret

If you take my life as exhibit A, its scary how easy it is to ruin a routine.  After nearly 6 months of developing a disciplined Bible reading and prayer time before work, I decided to take yesterday off.  While driving in my car, a thought crossed my mind, “a day away from God can lead to years of regret.”

During my tenure as a high school teacher, I participated in several seminars related to life skills.  I recall one evening at Black Rock Retreat Center as the key note speaker spoke about choices.  Essentially his message concentrated on Ideas have consequences.  Thus, as one’s world view is formed, the choices you make influence your actions, behavior and the words that you choose.  Whether you’re talking about running, working out or spending time with God, a day away can lead to years of regret.

As I look back on my life, distractions reflect where your heart is, Matthew 6:19-22.  When eating, sleeping and watching television becomes more important than the Lord, my priorities have swayed in the wrong direction.  If I let this occurrence become a pattern, regret is a likely fate.  Therefore, whenever you start to slip sliding away from God, react quickly before a spiritual slumber sets in.  In your weakness, Christ can be strong, 2 Corinthians 12:7-12, but you must surrender to obtain the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Waking Up Fat

For the first 18 years of my life, I was a lean, mean running machine, never weighing more than 140 pounds.  In college, I grew out, gaining the freshman 25, then bulked up by working out several days a week.  By the time I married, I leveled out at 180 pounds, exercising a few times each week to stay in shape.  After being chased by stray dogs for several miles on consecutive days, I decided to retire from jogging.  Subsequently, as time passed, one day I woke up fat.

When you stand and look at yourself in a mirror, its only uplifting if you’re in shape.  Unfortunately, countless individuals have developed 6 packs, cases or keg shaped bellies.  Some where along the way as your metabolism slows down, all it takes is poor eating habits or consuming too many calories by drinking beverages to become bloated.  Once you reach this point, you only have 2 real choices, make drastic changes or accept your obesity.

Although millions are annually concerned with their physical weight, people can also become spiritually obese.  Usually, this process begins with an innocent break from God.  “I’m not going to go to church this weekend?  I’m too tired to read my Bible.  I just don’t feel like praying today; nor do I know what to say to God anyway.”  Often, one day becomes a week, weeks turn into months and before you know, you haven’t talked to God in years.  If you find yourself here, remember the words of  1 Timothy 4:8.  Put Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:24 into practice or else you might become like me, waking up fat.

by Jay Mankus

 

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