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Entrusted to the Grace of God

As a former youth pastor, I have seen how creative teenagers have become to raise money for mission trips.  During my tenure at First United Methodist Church in Columbus, Indiana, three bus loads of junior and senior high students spent a week each summer repairing roofs for a poor community in southern North Carolina.  Anyone who donated money received an invitation to a banquet where pictures and testimonies were shared.  This event was designed to highlight and summarize all that God had done through these young people.

From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been entrusted to the grace of God for the work which they had now completed, Acts 14:26. 

Based upon the words of Luke, Paul and Barnabas began this tradition at their home church in Antioch.  Paul and Barnabas traveled over 1200 miles in a little over two years.  As a result of their travel, more than a dozen new churches were established.  These new partnerships resulted in a series of letters, questions and return visits to help and nurture new converts to Christ.  According to Luke, it took a long time to communicate all that had happened, staying in Antioch an extended period, fellowshipping with Christian brothers and sisters.

Arriving there, they gathered the church together and began to report [in great detail] everything that God had done with them and how He had opened to the Gentiles a door of faith [in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior]. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples, Acts 14:27-28.

While fasting and praying back in Acts 13, the Holy Spirit called Paul and Barnabas to become missionary partners.  Luke refers to this event as being entrusted to the grace of God.  The church leaders in Antioch assigned the task of missionaries to these two godly leaders.  Paul was a Roman citizen while Barnabas was a wealthy man, a good combination for traveling throughout the Mediterranean.  Depending upon the gifts, resources and talents you have been blessed with, make sure you listen to God’s calling so that you will fulfill what God has entrusted you to do.

by Jay Mankus

The Road to Mental Toughness

As an athlete, no one wants to be labeled soft.  This term can refer to being physically weak, emotionally unstable or immature mentality.  During my early years as a baseball pitcher, cross country runner and golfer, I let bad breaks rattle me.  When I was squeezed by an umpire, tired due to heat and experience a sudden wind gust blowing my ball into a hazard, I lost it.  Depending upon how I felt, I would cry, complain or become enraged by failure.  These setbacks exposed my lack of mental toughness, prompting me to start heading down this path to see what I was missing.

But as for you, continue in the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced [holding tightly to the truths], knowing from whom you learned them, 2 Timothy 3:16.

As a Christian, a trainer from Tentmakers Youth Ministry brought this weakness to my attention during a leadership training seminar.  To condense this observation, an advisor demonstrated how my emotions were influencing everyone around me.  When I was on fire for God, I lifted up everyone in the room that I walked into.  Unfortunately, whenever I was depressed, I didn’t want anyone to be happy, sucking the life out of a room.  This spiritual immaturity caused me to leave my youth ministry position in Columbus, Indiana after 16 months.  If I was mentally tough, I might still be in youth ministry.  Yet, I burned myself out after working 7 days a week for a year.

And how from childhood you have known the sacred writings (Hebrew Scriptures) which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus [surrendering your entire self to Him and having absolute confidence in His wisdom, power and goodness]. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; 2 Timothy 3:15-16.

December 4th will mark my 34th anniversary of publicly proclaiming my faith in Christ.  The main lesson I have learned on the road to mental toughness is that the Bible plays a crucial role.  The apostle Paul details in the passage above the usefulness of God’s Word.  While there will always be areas of my life where I regress, the Bible has become a source of guidance, inspiration and wisdom.  The more I read, study and meditate upon God’s precepts, the stronger my mind becomes.  As I attempt to grow closer to the Lord daily, my prayers include a desire for my children to develop and display mental toughness.  May this blog encourage you to evaluate your own mind so that you too will strive to pursue the road toward mental toughness.

by Jay Mankus

The Shell Game

The Shell Game is symbolic of three stages in life: early childhood development, reaching your prime and going through a mid-life crisis.  As a child, a lack of confidence, fear and insecurities cause many young people to hide who they really are.  When afraid, frightened or threatened, most turtles seek shelter under their shell, disappearing and hiding underneath until its safe to come out.  Likewise, human beings possess a similar defense mechanism, withdrawing from society until assurance, confidence and hope is restored.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

In the early years, stuttering prevented me from ever expressing myself clearly as a child.  Being made fun of, mocked and teased was too much to endure.  These attacks against what I could not control led me to live a private life until my teenage years, participating in solitary play, imagining what it would be like for me to talk without stuttering.  After my dad was transferred from New Jersey to Delaware, a neighborhood of kids helped me come out of my proverbial shell.  Friends like Jeanette, Steven and Richie overlooked my stuttering, seeing a potential that no one else had prior.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

By the beginning of my senior year of high school, my faith in Christ, amazing friends and an unquenchable fire for life transformed me.  This one year served as a catalyst to do things I never imagined possible.  Despite periods of stammering, God inspired me to become a youth pastor, high school teacher and invest the prime of my life coaching, mentoring and sharing my faith with others.  During this fifteen year period, I was filled with unswerving faith that allowed me to experience the abundant life, witness miracles and experience a spiritual awakening within Columbus, Indiana.  Unfortunately, at some point in the last fifteen years, I have reverted back to playing the shell game, trying to hide the person that I have become.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed, 1 Peter 4:12-13.

At some point in life, whether you call it a mid-life crisis or the painful reality that you’re not the same person that you use to be, this fact is hard to swallow.  Recently, I have tried to go back in time, to see where I went wrong.  When you don’t have the energy, drive or passion anymore, its hard to make progress or fix the flaws that are obviously present in my life.  What makes matters worse is seeing a shell of the person that you used to be and feel powerless to alter, change or repair the damage done.  If you reach this stage in life like me, Jesus is the only one who can mend your pain.  While restoration is a long process with bumps along the way, Jesus is like Med-Express, available at any time you need medical and spiritual attention.  As this endless shell games presses on, reach out to Jesus, who will hold your hand through the storms of life.  May this blog comfort your soul as you endure the good, the bad and the ugly in the shell game called 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

 

Jumping to Conclusions

Gossip can be a compulsive hobby for those who indulge in the grapevine.  When you add an inquisitive mind to this equation, information can be misinterpreted.  Subsequently, individuals often jump to conclusions based upon their desired outcome.

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” – Mark 3:22

Shortly after he began his earthly ministry, Jesus gave the religious leaders plenty to talk about.  Healings and miracles created a huge following.  However, once Jesus began to perform exorcisms, that was taking this faith thing too far.  Unable to comprehend Jesus’ power, teachers of the law started a rumor, assuming Jesus was the prince of demons in disguise.

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. – Mark 3:25-26

If you have ever lived in a small town, drifted off the beaten path or don’t correct misleading reputations, you too will find yourself part of an exaggerated story.  A month before leaving my youth pastor position in Columbus, Indiana, people claimed that I said the world was coming to an end.  While studying the Book of Revelation, certain individuals began to improvise causing some of my friends to buy into these lies.  In view of this, the next time you feel an urge to jump to a conclusion, make sure you test everything you hear, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, before you pass on information.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Gotta Get It Right

During my last year as a youth pastor, I was responsible for running Confirmation, a year long class for 8th graders who sought to take ownership of their faith.  Before the actual ceremony during church in the Spring, I took my group away on a retreat about 30 minutes west of Columbus, Indiana.  Coming out a year earlier, I showed the movie Groundhog Day to break the ice, easing the tension for those uncomfortable with talking about God.  Essentially, Bill Murray keeps repeating the same day over and over again, until he gets it right.

Unfortunately, time doesn’t stand still like this movie.  However, there are several life lessons worth noting.  First, too many individuals, me especially, become consumed with what they are doing, where they are going and what they need to accomplish every day.  As a result, blinders prevents you from appreciating, interacting and slowing down long enough to develop permanent meaningful lasting relationships.  Secondly, distracted people often don’t recognize, see or stop to help someone in need with a smile, word of encouragement or passing prayer.  Finally, life is best served by embracing daily distractions that God provides.  These interruptions offer opportunities to minister, nurture and uplift struggling souls.

While listening to the song Get it Right by Silverline, I sensed the urging of the Holy Spirit to write this blog.  Although each day is filled with trials and errors, life is too short to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.  If  you are touched by these words, join me in the quest to get it right, John 10:10.  Yet, when you fail, don’t give up, Galatians 6:9-10.  Rather, by leaning on Christ, Philippians 4:13, believe in your heart that over time, you will get it right.

Please comment on my blog how your journey is going.  This post is dedicated to Elizabeth, one of my students who gave her heart to Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, at the end of our confirmation retreat.

by Jay Mankus

Uncharted Waters

During my last summer as a boy scout, I spent a week canoeing 50 miles in the Canadian wilderness.  To reach our goal, our troop had to average just over 7 miles a day to complete this journey.  Due to a few stormy days, one day was stretched to 10 miles after whitecaps, 3 feet high at times, through a curve ball into our original plans.  Once leaving our guide at the boat dock, our scout master had the only map of these foreign bodies of water.  Faith, trust and hard work was to key to finishing this adventure.

After graduating college, I faced a similar dilemma, but this time I endured uncharted territories, not 100 % sure where to go, what to do and how to survive living on my own.  Although I had friends who had made a smooth transition to this next phase in life, I thought finding a full time job would be much easier.  My greatest fear was settling for something less than ideal, but not waiting too long to decide.  Finally, like a master navigator, God provided the perfect position in Columbus, Indiana.  While having one of the best summers of my life, I treated my new position like a sprint instead of a marathon, eventually burning myself out after 15 months due to immaturity.

Twenty years later, I feel as if I am living the lyrics to Willie Nelson’s song “On the Road Again.”  Some where along the way, doubt has crept into mind whispering words of confusion.  Whether you are new parents driving home from the hospital with your first child, starting a new job or looking for purpose and meaning in life, uncharted waters await you.  Although waves of uncertainty may come crashing around you, James 1:6, there is a living God who can lead you beside still waters, Psalm 23:2.  Whatever trial is currently staring you in the eye, may the God of the Bible help navigate you through life’s storms so you may experience the gift of eternal life, Romans 6:23.

by Jay Mankus

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