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When Life is Cruel and Unfair

The title of Clint Eastwood’s classic western film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly provides a much more accurate assessment of life than I initially thought.  In this context, the good symbolizes blessings, fruits of hard work, rewards, success and victories in life.  Meanwhile, the bad includes accidents, disappointment, failure, injuries, setbacks and unforeseen events.  Ugly represents examples of when life is cruel and unfair, taking the forms of curses, demonic influences and generational sins.

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, Exodus 20:5.

On my first day back to work following bereavement for my father in law’s funeral, I received more bad news.  One of my co-workers Dominic, suffered a brain aneurism on one of his day’s off.  Dominic is one of those people you enjoy interacting with, engaging, friendly, kind and at times longwinded.  Nonetheless, Dominic had just received a promotion, relocating to a new building in Maryland.  His future looked bright until a severe brain aneurism has left Dominic on the verge of death.  For a young man with a girl friend and the rest of his life in front of him, this fate doesn’t seem fair.

However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:  Deuteronomy 28:15.

The only way to explain this tragedy and similar heart breaking stories can be found in the ten commandments, specifically Exodus 20:5.  Moses reflects upon this biblical truth within an entire chapter in Deuteronomy.  Moses spends the first 14 verses of chapter 28 highlighting signs of God’s blessings.  The remaining 54 verses uncover hints of curses and or consequences of generational sins.  Due to the extent of details shared within this chapter of the Bible, it’s safe to say more curses exist than blessings.  Subsequently, people shouldn’t be surprised by examples of when life is cruel and unfair.  In view of this harsh reality, it’s essential to live each day on earth like it’s your last, assuring and preparing yourself for life beyond this world, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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For Those Who Wait It Out

As I look back on my life, one disturbing pattern exists.  When I failed to reach a goal, rejected by a company or cut by a sports team, I changed course.  Trying to rebound quickly, I altered my dreams in life to avoid further disappointment  Sure, this made me feel better momentarily, yet I regret not sticking it out longer to see if I could have achieved my desired destination.

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

The group Firefight sings about this topic in the song For Those Who Wait.  The attached video illustrates a natural response to failure, quitting.  Yet, the lyrics point to the reward for those who hang in there despite not succeeding on your first attempt.  This is where rationale thoughts wrestle with faith.  While some may never taste success, perseverance shapes character and will prepare you for future opportunities in this life.

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

If you are like me, sharing dreams with family and friends can be frustrating.  Responses like don’t quit your day job and don’t get your hopes up are typical.  Meanwhile, those who don’t comment roll their eyes or mutter “yeah right.”  This vision that you paint for others doesn’t fit their current perception of you.  Thus, you have one of two options.  Think about what might have been or step out in faith by toughing it out like those who wait?  I pray that you choose the latter.  Take courage as you wait on the Lord to open the next door in your life.

by Jay Mankus

Remember Where You Came From

Whether your life has turned out to be a success, disappointment or some where in between, its always important to remember where you came from.  Depending upon how you were raised, you’ve likely developed stereotypes about certain occupations, places or people.  Over time these views will either be reinforced or shattered.  Whatever happens make sure you remain humble so you don’t miss out on meeting special people.

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; Galatians 1:13.

Paul was a religious zealot who initially persecuted and gave the order to kill the apostle Stephen.  Thus, after his conversion to Christ many were hesitant to believe his faith was real.  This backlash inspired Galatians 1, a summary of his testimony.  It wasn’t until Paul began his missionary journeys when fellow Christians began to accept and embrace him as a genuine believer.

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, Galatians 1:15.

While my past isn’t as radical as Paul, I still have issues to overcome.  Years of stuttering stunted my communication skills and ability to draw close to others.  Periods of depression still cause me to withdraw at times, wandering away from the people I love.  Yet, because of God’s grace, I have hope for the future.  Despite my own imperfections, God sent His one and only Son to die for my sins.  Therefore, don’t let the sun go down without accepting God’s free gift of eternal life.  When you remember where you came from, you will likely find a sinner saved by God’s grace.

by Jay Mankus

As Is Verse Could Be; Should Be

During my time attending a youth ministry trade school known as Tentmakers, a specific mindset was ingrained within me.  Instead of being task oriented, the curriculum stressed the importance of developing vision.  Subsequently, individuals must be realistic with their current position, the As/Is before reaching a desired destination, the Could Be/Should Be.

And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it, Habakkuk 2:2.

According to C.S. Lewis, success is the process of arriving.  Unfortunately, many people go through life thinking if I only achieve this position, salary or status, then happiness will be achieved.  This belief sets people up for failure, rarely taking time to celebrate the little accomplishments in life.  Those few who actually reach the summit, mountain top, may be unfulfilled pondering, “is this it?”

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay, Habakkuk 2:3.

To insure disappointment does not come knocking at the door, perhaps it may be beneficial to begin thinking about life in terms of As/Is, Could Be/Should Be.  While any type of change will take time to adopt and conform to, motivation in 2017 is still fresh.  Therefore, don’t waste the opportunity to transform your ways in the New Year.  Enjoy the journey with vision as your guiding light and the Lord the wind beneath your wings.

by Jay Mankus

Bidding Time, Waiting for an Opportunity or a Wasted Effort?

Whenever you have to stick around to see the final results of a close race, tension arises.  Uncertainty can be heavy, causing participants to second guess themselves,”what if I only did this or that, handled a situation better or recovered quicker from a mistake.  Unfortunately, life is full of periods where you have to sweat it out, wondering if you are good enough or have the right stuff to make your dreams a reality.

The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “ ’No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves,’ Matthew 25:8-9.

While you experience delays like an airplane stuck in a holding pattern, sometimes you have to wait your turn in line.  If something is worth it, you may have to lie in wait until an open door comes or an opportunity arises.  This scenario is what faced ten virgins in Matthew 25, shared by Jesus in a parable.  This story illustrates that individuals must earnestly wait for the Lord’s return in eager expectation.  As you carry on with your daily life, don’t lose sight of the end goal, eternal life in heaven.  If you’re careless, you just might find yourself on the outside looking in.

For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them, Matthew 25:29.

If you’ve done everything in your power to keep your dreams alive yet still fail, many will come away with resentment, questioning all the hours spent without success.  Others will proclaim in haste, “what a waste!”  Nonetheless, the parable of the talents provides an important life lesson.  The Lord has given every soul a gift, talent or special ability.  God holds us responsibility for that which has been given.  Therefore, do not bury, hide or neglect the special gifts God has given you.  Rather, make the most of what you have been given by being a good and faithful steward of your talents on loan from God.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Absence of Discipline

One of the definitions of discipline eludes to a branch of knowledge.  Similar to higher education, discipline is self-taught or prodded through some sort of accountability relationship.  This concept involves dedication, hard work and strict training.  For those who commit by developing daily routines usually experience blessings, success and wealth.

For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly, Proverbs 5:23.

On the other side of the spectrum, you will find apathy.  Those who indulge in this behavior will go through periods of complacency.  The by-product of this decision causes individuals to lose sight of their goals, living day to day.  Subsequently, vision for the future slowly disappears as depression, laziness and hopelessness take over.  This is what likely inspired Solomon to claim the lack of discipline will lead to death.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline, 2 Timothy 1:7.

If you have found yourself in a steady decline recently, the apostle Paul provides a message of hope.  The Holy Spirit was sent by God following Jesus’ ascension into heaven to empower those who call on the name of Lord.  Therefore, don’t allow a spirit of pessimism to reign within you.  Rather, claim the promise in the passage above so that you will escape an undisciplined life.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Finding a State that is More Than Enough

It doesn’t take much for someone to lose their confidence, mojo or swagger.  Life has a way of being cruel, dropping bombshells out of no where that can paralyze souls.  Thus, if you take a few moments to observe individuals around you, you’ll find many going through the motions.  Struggling to get through each week, I finding myself in a similar pattern, hoping to discover a state that is more than enough.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children, Hosea 4:6.

When you’re left looking for answers to get out of a funk, sometimes you need to examine the past to see what’s led to previous success.  For me, the greatest influence in my life was nearly two months I spent at Tentmakers Youth Ministry Trade School.  Every day I was challenged, equipped and pressed to develop a vision oriented life style.  Once I received a full time position in Columbus, Indiana, I applied a 90 day action plan to perfection.  Unfortunately, after 90 days I was in foreign territories, not sure what to do.  Subsequently, I lost my way and passion for youth ministry.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly, John 10:10.”

I guess what I am trying to say is that I’m tired of mediocrity.  Yet, until I rebuild a life based upon discipline, purpose and vision, the crappy results will remain the same.  When push comes to shove, something has to give.  Therefore, join me in this quest to find a state that is more than enough by rediscovering the abundant life of Christ.  Sure, there will be growing pains but the effort is worth the journey.

by Jay Mankus