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When Did Your Ministry Begin?

During his Sunday broadcast on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Jentezen Franklin told stories of visiting his grandfather as child. Growing up in a family of musicians and preachers enabled Jentezen to develop ministry skills prior to becoming a teenager. These experiences sowed a desire within Jentezen to become a pastor. Looking back, this is where his ministry was conceived. Shortly after listening to this sermon, I received a text informing me that my spiritual mentor Ken Horne had passed away. This news led me to ponder, when and where did my ministry begin.

And Peter answered them, Repent (change your views and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it) and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38.

As an individual with an addictive personality, when I accepted Jesus into my heart in December of my sophomore year, it taken take long for me to become a Jesus freak. This spiritual pursuit began attending Fellowship of Christian Athlete huddle at Concord High, led by my swim coach Ken Horne. Afraid of stuttering, I spent the next year listening, absorbing everything that I heard. From here I started attending a Methodist youth group, experienced my first Lay Witness Mission revival weekend and went on as many Christians retreats as possible. Several of these moments involved Ken, delegating to me various leaderships roles as my faith grew.

Such [former] ages of ignorance God, it is true, ignored and allowed to pass unnoticed; but now He charges all people everywhere to repent (to change their minds for the better and heartily to amend their ways, with abhorrence of their past sins), Acts 17:30.

While in college, Ken gave me my first opportunity to preach. This weekend in Friendship, Maryland was like having all the stars align in my favor. Beside having an amazing time and connecting with several young people, my stuttering disappeared. Whenever I opened my mouth, the Holy Spirit spoke through me as a vessel for God. My friend Maureen had passed away the previous year from cancer so the message God put on my heart was “It’s Time to Stop Playing Games by Getting Right with God.” At the end of my message I played the song Feel the Nails by Ray Boltz. Before the song concluded, several members of this church ran to the altar. This one event in 1990 cemented my calling and it was here where my ministry began.

by Jay Mankus

Determined to Change the Status Quo

Status quo is a Latin phrase which refers to the existing state of affairs in regard to social or political issues. From a modern perspective, this is similar to the expression”don’t rock the boat” by maintaining the existing social structure and values. During a scene from National Treasure, Benjamin Gates’ father warns his son that unless the status quo changes, their lives will be in danger. Whenever I am pressured to conform to one ideology, mindset or worldview, my creative nature craves to go against the flow, finding a better way by thinking outside the box.

Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it, Matthew 7:13.

Jesus addresses the status quo during a first century sermon. Jesus uses the analogy of two roads: a super highway and a trail through the woods. The status quo is compared to a broad road, where the popular crowd resides followed by the masses and wanna be accepted. Meanwhile, the less attractive path is narrow, only accessible for one person at a time. Jesus details the eternal destination that awaits based upon the decisions each person makes on earth. Perhaps, Jesus is using fear instill a desire to change the status quo.

But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it, Matthew 7:14.

Thirty five years ago, I was a teenager who recently accepted Jesus to be my personal Lord and Savior. This decision didn’t sit too well with many of my non-believing friends. As I became an active member of my high school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I found comfort and support on the narrow path. Sure, being considered cool and popular by my peers would have been nice, but I was determined to change the status quo. A similar decision today could be compared with committing social suicide. Yet, in the end you have to decide who do you want to please; others or God. As for me and my house, I remain determined to change the status quo.

by Jay Mankus

What People Do to Become Accepted

Beside my accolades as an athlete, I spent most of high school living in relative obscurity. When I became a Christian in the middle of my sophomore year, a majority of my friends were members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. During a conversion with one of my coaches as a senior, I discovered that several of my peers labeled me as a freak, holy roller and loner who didn’t know how to have fun. Perhaps, this perception inspired me to become accepted once I entered college at the University of Delaware.

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41.

During a summer vacation to Tampa, Florida, I bought a socially acceptable muscle shirt. While this tank top was white, there was a character with shades and cigarette in one hand. The caption on this shirt was Too Cool. By wearing this on the day I moved into my dorm, I received several positive comments. Although the message on this shirt contradicted everything that I believed in at this time, I cared more about being accepted than serving as a light for Christ. This is what I did to become accepted.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

My plan worked as became one of the four horseman. My nickname was derived from my tank top, J.L. Cool. I guess you can say I made the most of my first semester in college, getting special invites to several parties even some to fraternities that I didn’t belong to or join. This was a wild ride, indulging in deeds of darkness while my lure and popularity spread across campus. When the second semester began, nearly half of my floor in Lane flunked out. Consumed by dread, guilt and shame, a winter retreat provided an opportunity for me to get my life right with God. While my testimony has a happy ending, only God knows the blessings that I missed out on by wanting to become socially accepted.

by Jay Mankus

Blessed to Be Alive

The half-century mark is five decades on this special planet called earth.  As the clock strikes twelve midnight, ending August 13th to commence August 14th will mean that I have reached fifty years of age in 2019.  According to numerology, the number fifty symbolizes the total man.  This favorable number marks grace, kindness and regeneration. Karl von Eckartshausen, an author, German Catholic and philosopher, who lived to see the founding of the United States of America referred to reaching fifty as the number of illumination.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations,” Jeremiah 1:5.

I was born the day Hurricane Camille formed as a tropical depression.  A few days later this massive storm struck the Gulf Coast, the second most intense tropical cyclone on record to hit the United States.  Perhaps, this was a foreshadowing of the life that I would live.  I have survived earthquakes, floods, a microburst and a tornado.  I escaped a head on collision, a freak boating and tubing accident to make it to what I call Hawaii 50.  Nonetheless, I have a lot to be thankful for, truly blessed to be alive.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them, Psalm 139:13-16.

My spiritual birth occurred on December 4th, 1984, during my sophomore year of high school.  My spiritual father was my high school swim coach and Science teacher.  As the leader of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Concord High, Mr. Horne coached, directed and guided new believers toward seeking God’s will for our lives.  While I didn’t always take a straight line or path, the Holy Spirit empowered me to become a Bible teacher, youth director an aspiring writer.  I’m truly blessed to be married to Leanne who gave birth to our 3 wonderful children.  I’m not sure what the Lord has planned for me in the years to come, but I pray that I keep in step with God’s Spirit so that I don’t miss my next calling.

by Jay Mankus

Relocating to a Permanent Address

Billy Graham viewed his life on earth as someone merely passing through, making the most of his ninety nine years.  I was in my car when I received the news of his death, listening to talk radio.  Upon hearing this update, Rush Limbaugh spent a few minutes of his next monologue reflecting upon Graham’s life and legacy.  Rush relayed the context of one of Billy’s famous quotes.  “When you hear reports about my death, don’t believe it.  I am not dead.  Rather, I have changed my address, relocating to a permanent destination.”

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life, 1 John 5:13.

In a spiritual sense, I am related to Reverend Graham.  You see, my mentor in high school, Ken Horne, dedicated his life to God at a Billy Graham Rally as a teenager.  This propelled Ken to become a high school teacher, coach and Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s director at Concord High.  I was too cool for God as a nineth grader, rejecting several offers to attend this small group Bible Study.  After a nervous breakdown in tenth grade, I accepted an invitation to an event on December 4th, 1984.  Ken paid for my ticket to a Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s Speakout featuring members of Philadelphia’s four professional sports teams.  Yet, it was a man in a wheel chair, Skip Wilkins who God used to lead me to surrender my life to Jesus Christ.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved, Romans 10:9-10.

As the 2018 Winter Olympics come to a close this weekend, the 2020 Summer Olympics are just around the corner.  As Billy Graham officially retired Wednesday, its never too early to begin training, finding someone to pass the baton to in the name of Christ.  Reverend Graham wasn’t perfect, but as elders like Leonard Ravenhill began to offer constructive criticism to make sure new converts were being properly discipled following their conversions, Billy Graham’s ministry became a well oiled machine, producing permanent disciples.  May the legacy that Billy Graham Sr. has left behind inspire you to get moving, ready to fulfill the great commission so that those who do pass away are able to relocate to a permanent address in heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Remembering Those Who Refresh Souls

Its unfortunate that most people wait until a funeral to thank someone for the imprint made of their life.  Instead of sharing an encouraging word, time has a way of distracting individuals from expressing how they really feel.  Thus, souls often perish without hearing or knowing the impact they had on others.

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, 2 Timothy 1:16.

While writing a letter to one of his ministry partners, the apostle Paul urges believers to remember those who refresh souls.  To heed this call, I feel compelled to give a shout out for those people who have helped me along my faith journey.  The first was my high school swim coach, who also served as a science teacher and spiritual mentor.  To a student who was seeking for meaning in life, Ken Horne pointed me in the right direction as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddle leader at Concord High.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone, Colossians 4:6.

After helping me develop a solid foundation, several college friends inspired me to further my faith.  My roommate Mike introduced me to contemporary worship music, Phil showed me how to live life to the fullest and Dave led me to see the importance of accountability.  There are others who deserve additional credit, but there will be other blogs to address their deeds.  For now, don’t let time slip away on this July 4th before you remember those who have refreshed your soul.

by Jay Mankus

Worthy of Suffering

During my time at the University of Delaware, I was fortunate enough to meet several missionaries.  Through campus groups like Campus Crusade, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Intervarsity, opportunities arose to interact with individuals from different countries, cultures and dynamic characters.  In biblical terms, several of these people I met are worthy of suffering.

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name, Acts 5:41.

It’s interesting how people define success in various ways.  The poor may say a good day is having enough money to feed the whole family.  The middle class might suggest its making more than you spend.  Meanwhile, the upper class base success on property, possessions and power.  Yet, for first century Christians, enduring public persecution for their faith was like a badge of courage.

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name, 1 Peter 1:7.

Beyond any physical or verbal abuse martyrs experienced, a nugget of truth has been passed on from generation to generation.  While you may suffer for your beliefs, trials serve as a vehicle for growth.  Just as a furnace uses fire to remove imperfections from clay, persecution strengthens faith.  Thus, while the world is dumbfounded by those willing to risk death, imprisonment or public beatings, devout Christians continue to embrace suffering for the sake of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Double Trouble: One Foot in Heaven and the Other in Hell

Anna Chapman, Klaus Fuchs and Frank Abagnale Jr. all have one thing in common, each lived a secret life as a spy for years until eventually having their cover blown.  Even in a normal day to day setting, the desire to be accepted socially does persuade some to become fake, afraid that others will reject who they really are.  Thus, when a student enters college as a freshman, some chose to blend in, living a double life.

I fell into this trap during the years at the University of Delaware.  For a semester, I was one of the most popular freshman on campus, known as one of the 4 horsemen, getting all the invites to parties, hanging out late and playing sports on “the Beach” in place of studying.  When no one was looking, I snuck out of my dorm to attend the Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting once a week as a close Christian.  Essentially, I limited my faith to once a week, for an hour, with one foot in heaven and the other in hell.

Unfortunately, this cycle repeated itself during my senior year of college.  Although my faith was not hidden at school, the summer provided a leave of absence from God, indulging in the pleasures on earth.  While not everything I did was evil, I spent too much time dangling on the fence.  I was the epitome of lukewarm, following in the footsteps of the church at Laodicea, Revelation 3:15-16.  This act of double trouble forced me to make a decision, should I stay or should I go?  Though it has not been smooth sailing, I’d rather be on a narrow path than a road that leads to destruction, Matthew 7:13-14.

by Jay Mankus

Recapturing Joy

On December 3rd, 1984, I began my personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-10.  Although I was still immature in many ways, there was something different about my spirit.  Two years later, during my senior year of high school, I felt compelled to get involved by volunteering for various things.  Thus, I became the program director for my Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s Bible Study, co-leading with my swim coach, Ken Horne.  Despite my stuttering, God used me.  Meanwhile, I decided to be an advocate for the Methodist youth group I attended, reaching out to shy people and inviting others to join.  My life wasn’t transformed overnight, but serving God filled me with a joy and peace that surpasses all understanding, Philippians 4:7.

While this joy grew periodically during my 5 years of college, somewhere along the way this ecstasy faded, becoming stale.  During the Honeymoon period of my faith, delight, elation and happiness were ever present.  I guess in many ways my child like faith has wilted, falling out like my hair.  Instead, adulthood has caused me to drift into a spiritual coma, forgetting what it is like to have a heart of a servant.  Like the woman in Luke 15:8-10, retracing her steps to find a valuable and sentimental coin, I am in the process of recapturing joy.

The priest Zechariah had experienced a life time of silence, beginning with the Malachi’s last words and lasting for 400 years.  In his old decrepit body, God ended this silence, sending an angel to Zechariah while he was performing his priestly duties in the temple, Luke 1:10-17.  However, like Sarah many years prior, Zechariah doubted God, resulting in muteness for 9 months.  Like me, Zechariah had lost his joy until God performed the first of many miracles, Luke 1:23-25.  Still speechless, Zechariah had 9 months to contemplate what God was in the process of doing.  When he does finally speak in Luke 1:67, its no surprise that Zechariah gives us 2 things people can do to recapture joy.

First, according to Luke 1:74, we should serve God without fear.  When you let go of what others think about you and resolve to serve God and God alone, Galatians 1:10, joy returns to your soul.  This is why I am so fond of high school.  I spent 3 years serving God in the classroom, on the sports field and in my neighborhood.  Although, joy is not complete until you apply Luke 1:76.  As you begin to tell others what God has done for you, Mark 5:19-20, a spiritual fervor rushes through you like goosebumps.

Despite all of this, there is no magic potion or self help book to recapture joy or else I wouldn’t be writing this blog.  The devil still exists with his sights set on stealing your joy, John 10:10.  Thus, you need to arm yourself with a Christ-like attitude, 1 Peter 4:1.  Use prayer as a daily covering, Mark 1:35, the Bible as a sword, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and the shield of faith to keep joy inside of you, Ephesians 6:16.  The rest involves the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:3-4, as you hold on to God’s precious promises each day.  As Michael W. Smith once sang, “Pray for Me and I’ll pray for You” so that joy will be recaptured!

by Jay Mankus

 

Breaking Down

Arden McMath and Meghan Vogel

As homecoming festivities commence on high school and college campuses across the country, I was reminded of a nightmarish event this morning.  During my sophomore year of high school, I gathered up enough courage to ask one of my cross country teammates to our upcoming Homecoming Dance.  However, there was a problem, I didn’t know how to dance and I wasn’t old enough to drive.  Since I really liked her, I didn’t have the foresight to consider any of the obstacles until I received an answer.

Unfortunately, I received 3 different answers over a 4 day period.  I felt like a ping pong, still up in the air, but ready to be hit back and forth.  I went from a maybe to a I’ll meet you there to a gut wrenching “I’m going with someone else from school.”  Running 8 miles for practice is hard enough, yet when you add this devastating news to my mind, I became emotionally unstable.  After running 5 miles along the Brandywine River, with my thoughts racing back and forth, I finally crashed in the form of an anxiety attack.

This emotional breakdown, while frustrating at the time, was a turning point in my life.  Up to this moment, I was trusting in myself.  Although I owned a Bible, I never used it unless I was in church listening to a priest read from the Old and New Testament.  A few weeks following this incident, I finally accepted an invite to attend a Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s Bible Study, rejecting offers for the first 15 months of high school.  Then, on December 3rd, 1983, I publicly professed my faith in Christ, Romans 10:9-10 at another FCA event.  God used this rejection and preceding breakdown to lead me toward heaven’s door, Revelation 3:20.  If you are having one of those days, remember that the storms of life strengthen you, helping you to become mature and complete as a person, James 1:2-4.

by Jay Mankus

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