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An Unlikely Comeback

There are certain things that God calls people to do that are awkward, challenging and unappealing,  Unless someone possesses a strong conviction or will to act, most individuals exercise freewill to decline this opportunity to serve God.  In the passage below, an Old Testament prophet receives a clear message from the Lord.  However, human nature compels Jonah to flee, heading in the opposite direction of Nineveh.  This decision sets the stage for an unlikely comeback.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim [judgment] against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah ran away to Tarshish to escape from the presence of the Lord [and his duty as His prophet]. He went down to ]Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish [the most remote of the Phoenician trading cities]. So he paid the fare and went down into the ship to go with them to Tarshish away from the presence of the Lord, Jonah 1:1-3.

From time to time, I have met people whose lives have taken a similar path to Jonah.  Initial stages play the role of a prodigal, indulging their sinful nature until hitting rock bottom.  For those who come to their senses, confessions, repentance and reconciliation follows.  While in college, I spent a day at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio with two co-workers.  My friend Harry ran into an old youth pastor.  Eddy and I stared at each other in shock, unaware of Harry’s former life.  Prior to this encounter, Harry was in full blown prodigal mode, cursing like a sailor daily while living with his girlfriend.  This God instance planted the seed for another unlikely comeback.

Then they said to him, “Now tell us!  Who is to blame for this disaster? What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country?” So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I [reverently] fear and worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”  Then the men became extremely frightened and said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was running from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, “What should we do to you, so that the sea will become calm for us?”—for the sea was becoming more and more violent, Jonah 1:8-11.

Stories like this and the apostle Paul’s radical transformation in Acts 9 communicate a powerful message, anything is possible with God.  The Psalmist uses the imagery of infinity, ” as far as the east is from the west,” to describe God’s endless supply of grace, love and mercy.  To the human mind, this fact is hard to comprehend and grasp.  Nonetheless, whether you are currently running away from God, stuck in a relentless storm or ready to give God another chance, its never too late for a comeback.  May the testimony of Jonah give you hope that you too are a candidate for an unlikely spiritual comeback.

by Jay Mankus

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A Night the Lord Spoke to His Children

In the summer of 1993, I made my first of several treks to Kings Island, formerly a Paramount themed amusement park just east of Cincinnati.  Today, its owned and operated by Cedar Fair, known as the sister park of Cedar Point which is located in Sandusky, Ohio, on the north shore of Lake Erie.  My first visit was as a youth pastor of a large church in Columbus, Indiana, taking a bus load of teenagers and foreign exchange students from the Netherlands.  To minimize the side effects of long lines, I began to play Euchre, the card game of choice in the mid-west.  Throughout the course of the day, I played more than a dozen full games, forming special bonds with several young people.

These shared experiences on roller coasters and playing games together, set the scene for one of the most memorable evenings I can recall.  During my 15 years in youth ministry, I have discovered that certain individuals have an aura around them, which draw you in their direction.  Thus, on the 90 minute ride home, I was led to a specific seat on the bus.  Initially, 3 girls and a guy began talking about wanting more, not satisfied with mere Christianity.  However, before the night was over 2 individuals, Cathy and Jackie, began sharing a vision for a special event.  This June conversation inspired a night in July where the Lord spoke to his children.

Once the logistics were worked out, acquiring a few rooms in the church, the multiple purpose room and prayer chapel, the 12 Hours of Power was conceived.  Receiving input from my core leadership group, we decided to split those in attendance up into 3 groups, rotating time praying in the chapel.  Those not praying participated in games, deep conversations and lots of Dew, the mountain variety.  For 12 hours, students fought the urge to sleep by shifting their attention toward the heavenly realm.  Unlike any other Lock In I’ve been a part of, the power of the Holy Spirit fell upon these youth.  In the days, weeks and months that followed, a mini revival broke out in Columbus, Indiana, driven by the love of Jesus within teenagers.  Idle talk was replaced by impromptu Bible Studies, students began breaking down, openly confessing sins among their peers and the spiritual climate rose to heights I have never seen since.  This is what has, can and will happen again when the Lord speaks to His children.

by Jay Mankus

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