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When Teenagers Fall

As a former youth pastor, I understand the challenge of getting the attention and gaining the respect of teenagers. Some experts have blamed the loss in attention span to video games, tuning out adults who aren’t interesting. As technological advances continue, this communicate gap will likely expand causing many teenagers to fall asleep spiritually.

Now on the first day of the week (Sunday), when we were gathered together to break bread (share communion), Paul began talking with them, intending to leave the next day; and he kept on with his message until midnight. Now there were many lamps in the upper room where we were assembled, Acts 20:7-8.

A first centurion historian records an unusual event that occurs inside of a three story home, similar to a Cape Cod attic. According to Luke, Paul talked for several hours until midnight. A teenager named Eutychus struggled to stay awake, sitting next to an open window. While a steady breeze appears to keep Eutychus awake initially, at midnight this teenager fell asleep near the edge of the window. Gravity caused Eutychus to fall down and out, three stories to the ground, dead on arrival.

And there was a young man named Eutychus (“Lucky”) sitting on the window sill. He was sinking into a deep sleep, and as Paul kept on talking longer and longer, he was completely overcome by sleep and fell down from the third story; and he was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down and threw himself on him and embraced him, and said [to those standing around him], “Do not be troubled, because]he is alive,” Acts 20:9-10.

In one of the strangest healing accounts in the Bible, the apostle Paul hugs Eutychus back to life. Since Luke is a doctor, this event appears to dumbfounded him, unable to give any type of logical explanation for how Eutychus is resuscitated. One valuable lesson from this true story is that most teenagers prefer a hug over a rebuke. A public scolding often results in bitterness and rebellion. Meanwhile, using tough love via a hug can diffuse a volatile situation. Thus, the next time you witness a teenager falling asleep spiritually, use a sincere embrace to bring them back to life.

by Jay Mankus

Handing off the Baton

In a track relay race, participants need to hand off a baton between a set distance.  Individuals may drop this and still continue, but if anyone wander outside of their lane judges can disqualify an entire team.  During the 2016 Rio Olympics, the United States woman’s 400 x 100 team failed to finish after dropping their baton.  However, after a video review, a replay revealed another woman in an adjacent lane caused this drop to occur.  Thus, the woman were allowed to re-qualify following an appeal, going on to win the gold medal.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:6.

In life, some compare passing off a baton to raising children like Dr. Jeff Myers in his book Passing the Baton.  At some point, parents have to let go, knowing they have done all they could do with the time given.  Yet, if you are like me, there are some regrets.  There were conversations I didn’t have, issues I didn’t properly address and life lessons I didn’t impart.  Nonetheless, what’s done is done.  I can’t change the past.  All I can do is learn from my mistakes and do a better job with my last 2 kids before they leave for college.

Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart, Proverbs 29:17.

Upon dropping my son James off to college, I thought came to my mind, “its time to trust the Lord.”  Sure, as long my oldest resides in my home, I’m still responsible to encourage and nurture his faith.  Yet, the best thing I can do is pray that the faculty and staff of Liberty University challenges James and pushes him to new heights.  While nothing in life is guaranteed, I am holding out hope that the Christian influences at this institution will lead James to discover his calling on earth.

by Jay Mankus

A Slow Fast

I grew up in a competitive neighborhood, with several talented athletes.  Every summer we had races to see who was the fastest.  Although I did lose to a girl once, most of the time I was a step quicker than everyone else.  This environment led me to become long distance runner, finding my niche in cross country.  Perhaps this may explain why I have become an impatient adult, always in a hurry to get to no where.

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; Joel 2:12.

In recent years, my paths have crossed with several individuals who fast at the beginning of each calendar year.  Since I enjoy eating, this spiritual discipline hasn’t come easy, more painful than beneficial.  Some friends have passed on helpful resources like books written by Jentzeen Franklin to help me get over the proverbial hump.  Yet, my heart hasn’t been ready to commit to this until now.

When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach, Psalm 69:10.

While my current weight, the heaviest ever is one motivating factor, another reason to begin a fast is to pave a clear path for my future.  After listening to a few sermons in December, I found the easiest fast if there is such a thing is a Daniel Fast, twenty one days of eating fruits, vegetables and forgoing soft drinks for water.  Based upon Daniel’s experience during his captivity in Babylon, at the end of this period Daniel and his friends appeared healthier than those who ate the king’s food.  Thus, as I ease my way into this fast, I wait in eager expectation of the insight and life lessons the Lord will teach me over this 21 day journey.  If the timing is right, you can start as similar fast any time throughout 2016.

by Jay Mankus

 

Going Back in Time to Move Forward

Disney’s animation movie Cars premiered at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on May 26th of 2006.  Lightning McQueen, the star and voice of Owen Wilson, illustrates what happens when an individual seeks to do whatever it takes to reach the top of their profession, the Piston Cup for McQueen, whatever the cost.  Just before reaching his goal, Lightning accidentally stumbles upon Radiator Springs, a once booming town on Route 66.  Forced to fix a portion of the road he destroyed, McQueen is taught a series of life lessons before moving on to his final race of the season.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing, 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

Over the weekend, I spent a portion of 4th of July weekend in Amish country.  Spending the night at a bed and breakfast, I felt like I was transported back in time to life without technology.  There was no television, internet or bars to make a call.  Instead, there were books, nature and others to converse with.  Spoiled by distractions in life, it became painfully clear during my visit that my communication skills have deteriorated.  Tuning out others with technology had become a way of life for me, a misguided attempt to hide my inadequacies.  Thus, going back in time has created a thirst for conversations in the future.

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone, 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

Today, emails, Facebook and Twitter are flawed forms of communication.  While you may be able to express what you feel or think, often this form of expression is self-centered, void of any genuine face to face interaction.  Although emails may be convenient, they are superficial, not offering time for questions and answers like good old fashion meetings.  Perhaps, this generation has become too dependent on technology.  Sure, any information you desire is only a click away, but people are what makes the world go round.  Therefore, everyone needs time to get away, slow down and cruise the streets of a real life Radiator Springs.  Only when you go back in time for some rest and relaxation will you be ready to move forward.

by Jay Mankus

The Day God Said Adios

Usually, humans are the ones who question God.  Rants such as “how can a loving God allow my child to die or why do bad things happen to good people while the wicked continue to prosper” is par for the course.  Yet, have you ever considered that God is scratching His head up in heaven daily, trying figure out the actions of his children?  Disappointed by Israel, His chosen nation, one too many times, God finally had enough, saying “adios.”

According to Psalm 95:10, God’s patience wore thin.  Expecting the parting of the Red Sea to transform hearts for a generation, the Lord’s miracles were quickly forgotten.  Faithless acts, hungry stomachs and spoiled souls unleashed the wrath of God upon a generation, Psalm 95:11.  Essentially, God vowed not to let this disobedient generation experience the promised land.  Instead, the Jews wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, prevented from tasting a land filled with milk and honey.

This lesson is similar to the words of the prophet Isaiah 1:15-20.  When followers become distracted by sin, God tunes out their prayers.  Subsequently, the Lord is waiting for believers to humble themselves, admit their wrong doing and reason with Him in prayer.  Then and only then will you experience God’s blessings, Isaiah 1:19.  However, if anyone attempt to take a short cut, don’t be surprised if God says adios.

by Jay Mankus

Guard Rails: Real Life Bumper Bowling

Its not uncommon for youth to embrace their parents’ hobbies.  A one time opportunity for me soon became a weekly obsession.  While some of my peers were out partying on Friday night, I spent 3 years bowling, filling in as a sub for a league.  Before the days of bumpers, there was nothing to keep loose shots from entering the gutter.

Outside of bowling lanes, Guard rails were designed to keep vehicles from straying into dangerous areas while driving.  Unfortunately, not every street  contains such a guide.  On country, desolate or rural roads, poor counties can not afford, support or justify spending that much money.  However, when someone dies in a car accident, their life is priceless.

From a spiritual perspective, the Bible is like bumpers, a guide to keep you from falling of course, Matthew 7:13-14.  The life lessons, principles and truth inside of God’s Word serves as a light source, Psalm 119:105, to help you see down the road.  Although invisible, conviction, gut feelings or promptings from the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, can lead souls through the darkness in life.  May the words of this book provide you with the direction you are searching for today.

by Jay Mankus

 

Don’t Tell Em’… Show Them

On Sunday evening following the Masters coverage, the Golf Channel debuted a 3 part documentary on the Relationships, Major Accomplishments and Legacy of Arnold Palmer.  Although I didn’t catch every second of the 3  one hour special presentations entitled Arnie, I was struck by one life lesson Arnold learned from his father.  Like a shrewd man unveiling a secret to life, “don’t tell people how good you are; show them.”  If you watched any of this program or you were one of Arnie’s Army, then you know this is exactly how he lived his life.

Modern politicians could learn from from Arnold Palmer’s actions during his professional career and retirement.  Fans were always acknowledged, the press was never dodged and this man gave back more to the game and community than anyone.  Perhaps, this is why Arnold was called the King, showing the crowds, his opponents and the television audience the proper way to carry oneself whether in victory or defeat.  Despite Arnold’s fame and fortune, he remains humble, remembering where he came from, who he is and what his father taught him about being a good man.

Though Arnold tries to be good daily, he learned the same truth that we all have to come to grips with, no one is perfect, Romans 3:23.  According to the Bible, there is only One who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin, Hebrews 4:14-15.  Today, on Maundy Thursday, we celebrate the man called Jesus.  On his way to the cross, He refused to tell others about his goodness.  Rather, he set the example, shining his light in a dark and dying world.  Before you go to sleep tonight, read Jesus’ words in John 3:16-17 so that you too may be inspired to let the light of Christ shine through you, Matthew 5:13-16.  Don’t tell em’ about Jesus; show them God’s love!

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Why Losses Outweigh the Victories in Life

Earlier today, I began to feel like Job, pondering when my recent streak of trials will end.  While attending a friend’s concert this evening, enjoying the Raymond Lee Band, I sensed an answer coming from the Holy Spirit.  If victories out numbered losses, individuals would not learn essential life lessons.  Therefore, God allows losses to outweigh victories in life so that humility produces teachable moments.

As I read the book of Psalms, it appears King David does more complaining than celebrating.  In the tough times. people are forced into a corner, revealing their true character.  Behind the sadness and tears, rough circumstances leads troubled souls to trust in the Lord.  Without failure. you don’t truly appreciate the good things in life.

Perhaps, this is the main message of James 1:2-4.  After the storms of life fade from the horizon, souls are left to pick up the pieces.   Subsequently, wisdom is gained through maturity and perseverance.  Winning is nice, but sometimes victory hides flaws and imperfections.  Thus, the Lord places losses in life more than victories so that Jesus’ power might be displayed in our weaknesses, 2 Corinthians 12:9.

by Jay Mankus

The Fraility of the Human Heart

Since Thursday afternoon at 5pm, my life has been a whirlwind of emotions.  After a successful second interview at Amazon on Wednesday, I sensed a promotion in the near future, trying to stayed reserved until I hear the news.   A little more than 24 hours later, my focus switched toward a battle to live, unable to stand or breath on my own.   One second I felt like I was having a heart attack, the next a CAT Scan revealed a pocket of blood around my lungs and liver.

For the past 3 days, I have had a tube sucking the blood out of these 2 areas trying to prevent infection.  Until this improves, I am in limbo, getting stronger, but still waiting on my internal bleeding to stop.  Unfortunately, my body is not healing as quick as it use to in the days of my youth.  Thus, life has been put on hold temporarily, in God’s hand and in His time as I wrestle with the Fraility of the human heart.

God has taught me a subtle lesson these past few days, He’s in control no matter what I try to do.   Though I usually try to speculate about the future, I am helpless, trusting in God’s grace to get me through this ordeal.  Sooner or later, my odds of improvement increase, yet the Lord knows the next steps that I will take.  As for now, time is the enemy, placing me behind where I want to be as the reality of life’s fraility has come crashing through the front door of my heart.

by Jay Mankus

The Brady Bunch Generation

One might say Sherwood Schwartz was a pioneer, conceiving a sitcom for blended families well before society was willing to accept divorce.  Inspired by a 1965 column in the Los Angeles Times, Schwartz developed a vision for a show which took 3 girls and their mother played by Florence Henderson, joining them together with Robert Reed who had 3 boys of his own from a previous marriage.  When you add Alice, a live in maid staring Ann Davis, the Brady Bunch was born.  This suburban family related to average citizens, coping with the same struggles a parent, teenager and sibling face daily.  As shows like Little House on the Prairie became unrealistic, not achievable anymore, the Brady Bunch’s success led to 117 episodes from 1969-1974.

My favorite episode illustrates the battle which exists between brothers, Greg and Peter, who end up drawing a line down the middle of their room, attempting to distinguish who owned what.  Relying on emotions, not wisdom, their joint decision is not well thought out as Greg has complete control of the bathroom, yet only Peter has access to the hallway door.  Unfortunately, some people never mature, participating in ridiculous feuds over animals, children and possessions.  This moral decay continues today as a typical two parent family with one mom and one dad is now a minority, on the verge of becoming obsolete.  The Brady Bunch Generation has placed its stamp on American culture, embracing the imperfections so prevalent within mankind.

Genesis 31:1-2 reveals the beginning of a Brady Bunch like dispute between Laban and Jacob, whose name is later changed to Israel.  This tiff causes Jacob to flee without talking out his differences, like a child trying to run away from home in Genesis 31:17.  Laban pursues Jacob, eager to get things off his chest, Genesis 31:26.  Like a good solider, Jacob quietly waits for his turn to respond, beginning to rumble like a volcano ready to blow, Genesis 31:35-42.  Previously afraid of confrontation, Jacob releases his feelings which had been stored up for over 20 years.  Once both men had spoken their mind, this exchange sets the scene for an unique peace treaty in Genesis 31:43-55.  Instead of using tape to divide their territories, Laban and Jacob decide to use a heap of stones, creating a pillar.  This structure laid the boundary, similar to modern day property lines, agreeing not to intrude on the others’ life anymore.

This episode and biblical account reveal several great life lessons.  First, communication is crucial to maintaining peace with friends, family and neighbors.  Second, expressing your emotions allows you to let go of any grudge or resentment that you may have toward an individual.  Finally, when you bring other witnesses into your dispute, this serves as accountability down the road to prevent you from repeating the same mistake over again.  No one can ever achieve perfection, but if you give God your best, Matthew 5:48, He can make the rest of your days on earth like a story book ending, at least as good as life can get.

by Jay Mankus

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