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Tag Archives: Indiana

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

When the Timing is Right

If you watched the 2017 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros, you were not disappointed unless your team lost.  Nonetheless, winning this title in baseball is the pinnacle for major league ball players.  However, for one member of the winning Houston Astros, this wasn’t enough.  Similar to the final scene of the 1999 film For the Love of the Game, sometimes relationships are more important.  Thus, getting down on a knee, Carlos Correa proposed to his girl friend during the postgame festivities.  In his mind, the timing was right.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” – Matthew 16:15

During the first century, Jesus arrived in Caesarea Philippi with his disciples.  Led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus felt it was time to have a serious conversation with his ministry team.  After discussing what others believed about him, Jesus wanted to know, “what about you?”  This question set the stage for Passion Week, Jesus’ final week on earth before his crucifixion.  Following Peter’s confession that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for the events of the future.  This information didn’t sit too well with Peter, who was unable to grasp the fact that Jesus was a heavenly king, not the earthly king of the Jews.

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life, Matthew 16:21.

In life, the future is like a blank tapestry waiting to be painted.  Yet, some times you don’t have the materials necessary to start.  On other occasions, you have the tools, but you lack the vision necessary to complete this portrait.  As for me, I was attending a retreat in southern Indiana.  I had recently resigned from my youth ministry position and was unsure of what to do next.  Following a moving presentation, God impressed upon the need to ask my girl friend Leanne to marry me.  The next day, I drove to Chicago, took a twist tie that she gave me as part of a care package and proposed.  When the timing is right, step out in faith while you have the opportunity to act.  By doing this, you fulfill the words of Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

An Evening of Enlightenment

When a historian refers to the term enlightenment, its likely bringing up the age of reason spanning from 1620-1789.  This intellectual movement was inspired by books such as Novum Organum and Critique of Pure Reason.  Francis Baker and Immanuel Kant were guiding forces which attempted to change the way people thought about life.  Yet, knowledge is not the only source for enlightenment.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life, Proverbs 9:10-11.

According to Solomon, fearing the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  Scholars who hear or read this might suggest “this is absurd.”  Yet, what I think Solomon is eluding to is that individuals who do not fear God become full of themselves, oblivious to the spiritual realm.  Meanwhile, those who fear God develop discernment and insight.  This keen awareness can lead to evenings of enlightenment when you keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple, Psalm 119:130.

Fasting, prayer, reading the Bible and worship are vehicles for receiving enlightenment on earth.  While some people set out to receive enlightenment daily, others are surprised by insight from a fast, moments in prayer, a rhema from the Bible or a moving experience in worship.  While on a retreat in Indiana, I had my own evening of enlightenment.  During the closing ceremony of the night, I received a revelation from God.  One day later, I traveled several hours to meet my girl friend Leanne, proposing shortly afterward.  When you follow through, faithful to God’s calling, enlightenment is not just an evening, its a way of 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

 

Silencing Her Critics

When I think of an Open Mic night, I usually picture amateur comedians or singers trying to get noticed to start their careers.  However, in the ministry, open mic nights often serve as a precursor to the end of an event, conference or retreat.  This time gives individuals a chance to share what’s on their heart or what God taught them.  Touched by this concept on numerous occasions in high school and college, I adopted this practice once a month as a youth pastor in Indiana.

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul, Psalm 66:16.

Several students gave moving testimonies in our chapel, a small prayer room in the church basement which held about 50 people comfortably.  While a member of my student leadership team usually spoke, one month a shy girl volunteered.  She was an outcast, unattractive and not very interesting when she talked.  However, on this particular Sunday evening, she silenced her critics.

“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him, Luke 8:39.

Opening up about trying to kill herself, brought most of the room to tears.  However, a spirit of boldness entered this rejuvenated soul, thanking those who showed random acts of kindness along the way.  For one shining moment, she was a star sent to give a heavenly message to stir the hearts of her teenage peers.  I’m not sure what has happened to this child of God, losing touch with many of my former students, but I will never forget the night she silenced her critics.

by Jay Mankus

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