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Rediscovering the American Spirit

While Hurricane Harvey and Irma have received most of the headlines this month, another human interest story hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.  As Americans watched images of devastation, flooding and property loss from these storms, compassionate hearts have been compelled to act.  Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watts thought maybe he could raise some money using social media.  More than thirty million dollars later, donations continue to pour in.  Meanwhile, average citizens with boats, trailers and trucks have driven to Texas to aid in the search and rescue of stranded homeowners.  Countless others have provided clothes, diapers and water for victims who have lost everything except their lives.  In the face of adversity, these hurricanes have revived the American Spirit.

If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up, Ecclesiastes 4:10.

From a historical perspective, King Solomon is considered one of the wisest human beings to ever walk the face of the earth.  In the passage above, Solomon points to the goal Israelites should strive to achieve.  Human beings can be fragile, often in need of a social companion.  Whether this is a classmate, co-worker or friend, life is easier when you have someone close to pick you up after a fall.  Sometimes falling refers to a physical act, but others struggle with a lack of confidence, depression or insecurity.  Based upon the context of Genesis 2, Adam spent a portion of his life searching for a suitable helper.  Initially, Adam looked for companionship among animals, likely taking some home as pets.  Yet, at some point these relationships didn’t suffice, eventually resulting in God creating Eve.  The Lord in his infinite wisdom understood the power of one person helping another in need.  Like the pay it forward movement, as one person demonstrates random acts of kindness, other good Samaritans are motivated to join in.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him, Luke 10:33.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus uses an analogy to illustrate what happens every day.  Sometimes people get into an accident, need help or are stranded along side of the road.  The people that should come to the rescue like priests and religious people use a busy schedule as an excuse to continue on their way.  The social outcast like the Samaritan ends up saving the day.  One of the points Jesus is trying to make is which one are you?  Are you going to remain on the sideline, failing to lend a helping hand to the countless who lost a home or family member?  Or will the selfless response by J.J. Watt inspire you to abandon your own worries to reach out to someone less fortunate?  Many the power of the Holy Spirit fall upon the volunteers in Florida and Texas to rediscover the American Spirit.  Although there will be other natural disasters in the future, I pray that this kindred spirit of giving continues to impact the lives of individuals forced to start over from scratch.  When communities love their neighbors as themselves, this world becomes a better place to live.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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I’m Not A Lost Cause

In my early years, I suffered from bouts of depression.  Unable to clearly communicate to others due to stuttering only complicated this issue.  While in junior high, I considered suicide as a viable option.  I guess at some point the Devil convinced me that my life was a lost cause.

For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught, Proverbs 3:26.

One of the ways to escape depression is through regaining confidence.  Unfortunately for me, I was volatile, fluctuating between cocky and worthless.  Since the only thing I had going for me early on in life was sports, I lived and died with each game or result.  This type of emotional roller coaster wasn’t healthy as I lacked the substance necessary to endure for the long haul.

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 2 Corinthians 3:5.

In the lyrics of Remedy Drive’s song Resuscitate Me, there is a line which reminds individuals like me that my life is not a lost cause.  Rather, when you enter into a relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, purpose and meaning is found.  Instead of living a self serving life focused on a “what about me mentality,” Jesus takes lost sheep and shows them the way, John 14:6.  Join me on this journey to convey to others “you’re not a lost cause.”

by Jay Mankus

A Race Against Time

When you hear someone mention the term race, it’s often in reference to Track & Field, Horses or Nascar.  Yet, my use is in the context of a personal battle.  Currently, I have fluid in my left eye along with a recent collapsed cell wall.  The sad thing is that this is my good eye.  Following emergency glaucoma surgery in December, a cataract has developed in my right eye to blur my vision.  Subsequently, I’m in a race against time to finish the book that I started this Spring.  Meanwhile, I still have a collection of screen plays I need to edit and an additional script in my head.  God willing I am hoping to complete these projects while I can still see.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him, 1 John 5:14-15.

Seeing and believing are two different aspects of faith.  According to the verse above, prayers should be based upon God’s will.  However, if what you are asking is foreseeable in the context of God’s will, you should be confident in having this request honored.  The only problem with my current dilemma is I’m not sure if it’s in God’s will for me to write full time.  As for now, I am trying to maximize my time away from work so that I can make the most of the gift of sight.

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith,” Matthew 21:22.

This second verse on prayer refers to overcoming mountains, persisting despite obstacles blocking your current path.  Since last winter, I wake up daily not knowing if my vision will be blurred or clear.  I have the faith for the Lord to heal and restore my sight, but a medical miracle has not arrived.  The only thing I can do is press on like the persistent widow.  This woman of faith did not stop praying until she received the outcome she desired.  Perhaps, perfect vision is illogical to hope for in prayer.  Yet, I cling to the promises in the Bible waiting for a miracle to occur in connection with God’s will.  This is my race against time.

by Jay Mankus

 

Just How Much I Don’t Know

Beginning in 1989, Nike began the Bo Knows advertising campaign to sell a new line of cross training sneakers.  Due to the amazing talent displayed by Bo Jackson as a professional running back for the Oakland Raiders and baseball player for the Kansas City Royals, the concept that Bo Knows fit.  Improbable for most people, Bo’s athleticism didn’t seem to be a reach.  Thus, the ideal that Bo Jackson could play any sport was conceived.

An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge, Proverbs 18:15.

Nearly twenty years later, over confidence isn’t a problem.  Rather, narcissism is on the rise as many Americans are convinced that they can do anything they set their minds toward.  While confidence isn’t a bad trait to possess, the danger comes when people believe without a doubt that they are right and everything else is wrong.  If you follow politics, this explains the tension which exists between party lines.

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings, Hosea 6:6.

As for me, I have reached a point in life where the older I become, the less I actually know.  Once clear absolutes like honesty, marriage and truth have turned into fifty shades of grey.  Opinions are replacing facts with good intentions rewarded for being on the right side on political correctness.  The world that I wake up to daily is a distant memory from the Christian values I was taught as a child.  Yet, transformation begins from within, displayed through faith in action.  Although many in the world may disagree with my point of view, emulating the love of Christ is the only way to revive wounded souls.  Actions speak louder than any spoken or written word.

by Jay Mankus

When Confidence Fades Away

There was a time in my life when I believed that I could do anything.  A few months after graduating from the University of Delaware, I felt like I was missing something.  This emptiness led me to pursue a leadership trade school in Minnesota called Tentmakers.  Following my completion of this youth ministry training in March of 1993, I was equipped with the tools I was previously missing.  This training propelled me to new levels of confidence.  Unfortunately, beginning in 1994 this confidence faded away, never to fully recapture again.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

During my fifteen years of coaching, I’ve seen similar situations occur on the athletic field.  Golf is probably the one sport where confidence is essential.  One day golfers may flirt with shooting par and the next can’t break 50 for 9 holes.  Meanwhile, I’ve seen dominant pitchers be unhittable one day and the next can’t find the strike zone.  Confidence is like fuel that drives individuals.  When it runs out its easy for people to become lost, a shell of who they once were.

For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught, Proverbs 3:26.

There is a term which refers to someone floundering, flopping back and forth without any sense of direction.  This state is often a by product of confidence that fades away.  If you have ever reached this point in life like me, Solomon encourages people to lean on God.  While you may not regain the heights you once obtained, the Lord promises to restore hope to those who have endured the pain of lost confidence.

by Jay Mankus

Placing Your Hope in the Wrong Things

For students and workers, every weekend provides opportunities for hope.  Anticipation, confidence and expectation await hoping to maximize your free time.  Yet, sometimes in an attempt to reach your goals, people place their trust in the wrong things.

Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing, Proverbs 11:7.

In the days of King Solomon, hero worship was a major problem.  Instead of thanking the God who created these heroes, individuals placed their hope in mortal human beings.  This decision will always lead to disappointment, especially after athletes, celebrities and stars past their prime or pass away.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer, Romans 12:12.

The apostle Paul provides useful advice for anyone who has made the mistake of placing your hope in the wrong things.  Rather, hope should be a source of joy.  While you wait, endure the trials and tribulations that confront you.  Finally, remain diligent in prayer, leaning on the Lord to guide your steps in the future.

by Jay Mankus

 

Mercy in Disguise

If you are caught doing or saying anything politically incorrect, mercy will be hard to find.  Rather, your reputation will be assaulted, tarnished or possibly ruined for the rest of your life.  When the dust settles, the heart broken long for mercy in disguise.

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment, James 2:13.

Growing up in Bethlehem, James’ older brother made great claims causing some to label him as a dreamer.  Subsequently, James bought into the rumors and stereotypes made about Jesus.  Thus, the context of the verse above refers to James’ acknowledgement of his own rush to judgement.  In the end, mercy triumphs over judgement.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need, Hebrews 4:16.

With the negativity that exists, especially within social media, its easy to lose sight of signs of grace.  Rather, harsh criticism is fueling a growing wave of guilt before all the evidence has been brought forth.  Thus, in an unloving world, its nice to know that there is a throne of grace available to those who believe.  Don’t let judgment drag you down; instead keep a close eye on mercy in disguise.

by Jay Mankus