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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

You Can Only Do So Much

Ten years ago, I volunteered for a week to serve as a camp counselor at an overnight Christian Camp just south of Reading, Pennsylvania.  Due to a weeklong heat wave, a cabin without air conditioning and inner ear infection that lingered the rest of that summer, I never returned for a second year.  Instead, my two sons now serve as camp counselors at Camp Cedarbrook.  During a de-briefing session over lunch, my oldest son James shared his frustrations of boys in his cabin who never listened to him.  Despite repeated attempts, numerous reminders and intervention from veteran counselors, James was unable to change these bad habits.  Unfortunately, you can only do so much in one week of time.

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

Unless you are a coach, counselor, parent or teacher, you may not realize that America is on the verge of a parental crisis.  After years of appeasing, bribing and spoiling children, basic character traits, courtesy and morals are missing.  Instead cell phones, electronic devices and video games are killing social skills, creating a further divide between children and parents.  Those individuals who are diligently working to stop this trend have their own obstacles to overcome.  Abandonment, death and divorce has led to single parent homes, struggling to provide and raise kids at the same time.  Giving a word of encouragement to my son, I replied “you can only do so much on your own.”

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another, Proverbs 27:17.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is a small quote from King Solomon.  This wise man compares a black smith to being the best person you can be.  When human beings enter into an accountability relationship, affirmations point out the good while flaws are pointed through honest assessments.  As long as both parties seek the best interest of the other, character is strengthened like iron sharpening iron.  For those who feel called into the ministry, you may not be able to win the hearts and souls of those who you love.  God doesn’t call everyone to be successful, but faithful.  Therefore, if you feel overwhelmed by a lack of progress in your life, remember you can only do so much.

by Jay Mankus

Guns, Violence and the Solution

According to a recent study, there are an estimated 270 million guns in America.  The Geneva based Small Arms Survey also found that the United States is the best armed civilization in the world.  In an article written by Tom Kertscher last week, Kertscher suggests that there are more guns than people in America.  Using statistics provided by the Washington Post and Vox, there are 310 million guns with a little more than 300 million citizens.  When there is a discrepancy of 40 million, its hard to know who to believe.  Regardless of the actual numbers, are guns to blame for recent school shootings, is mental illness a contributing factor or are demons convincing the unstable to act upon thoughts in their minds?

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it,” Genesis 4:6-7.

According to a Forbes article from 2012, consumers in the United States spent 13.6 billion dollars on video games.  As a parent with three teenagers, the most popular ones are what I call shoot em up, killing games.  When I taught high school, one student confessed to his obsession with video games, playing up to 16 hours a day each weekend.  While studies have shown that these virtual simulations have prepared new members of the military for combat, students who chose to attend college often become desensitized to violence.  When you play a video game, if you die, all you need to do is hit the reset button.  In real life, once an individual allows evil to influence their actions, you can’t bring people back to life.  Although I hear cries from the media, parents and victims to ban guns, no one has said a word about the role of violent video games.  Despite this silence, what’s really important is developing and implementing a solution.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him, James 1:5.

First Blood debuted in 1982 starring Sylvester Stallone who plays a drifter, a Vietnam Veteran trying to fit back into society.  Despite serving in the Special Forces, John Rambo was unwelcomed by the country he served.  After listening, reading and watching panel discussions about what to do to ensure the safety of public schools in America, one recommendation was to reach out to ex-military.  Instead of wasting away like the John Rambo’s in this country, perhaps its time to put to work former marksmen who honorably served America.  Although each state or school may opt for other alternatives, beefed up security at college and professional sporting events has stopped recent threats.  After recent reports that the security guard on duty at the Parkland, Florida school shooting remained outside, afraid to face the shooter, the Rambo’s of today wouldn’t have that problem.  May God give the leaders of America wisdom so that politics will be replaced with bi-partisan solutions.

by Jay Mankus

 

You’re Fired

In view of the increasing violence across the country and throughout the world, this old punch line by Donald Trump at the end of each Apprentice episode is no longer something to laugh at.  While hard working men and women have likely experienced the pain of losing a job, life is too fragile to be ended by a bullet,  Yet, as music videos, television dramas and violent video games desensitize life through countless depictions of murder, the value of human life is eroding.

But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up,” Daniel 3:12.

One of the byproducts of today’s warped mentality on life involves a lack of conviction and principles to life by.  While most civilizations experience cycles where morals rise and fall, few people demonstrate the commitment to put their faith on the line.  During the Jewish captivity by the Babylonians in the Old Testament, three men refused to worship a foreign god.  Drawing a line in  the sand, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were willing to die rather than break one of the ten commandments.  The penalty for such an offense was fire.

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up,” Daniel 3:17-18.

These three men weren’t fired by the king.  They were all on fire for God, willing to put their faith on the line, risking death over compromise.  Not many people would do the same today.  Recently, armed men with machine guns stormed a church in a country where Christianity is illegal.  Raising his voice, the leader demanded all the true believers to walk up to the altar.  Only a few rose to their feet,  “Is that it, anyone else?”  No one else stood.  “Okay everyone else can leave,” as the timid ran out of this place of worship.  Moments later instead of gun shots, the leader proclaimed, “now that all the true believers are here, let’s worship the Lord!”  May this experience inspire others to become fired up for Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Friends of Laughter

Unfortunately, I tend to speed through life, rarely taking the time for fun or laughter.  However, every so often the Lord sends someone to give me a different perspective on life.  During a youth ministry trade school called Tentmakers’ in honor of the apostle Paul, I met Otis Phillips, a fun loving individual who faithfully served the Lord.  The energy Otis poured out daily was amazing, yet his greatest asset was causing those around him to laugh.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens, Ecclesiastes 3:1.

One year later, I became close friends with a youth pastor from Ohio.  A kid at heart, Phil taught me to live life to the fullest.  Thus, every Monday afternoon we had lunch in Cincinnati.  Whether it was playing mini-golf, laser tag or video games, Phil helped me forget about life for a couple hours each Monday.  Subsequently, I learned to laugh at my myself, others and began to grasp a peace that surpasses understanding.

A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, Ecclesiastes 3:4.

Finally, in the past decade, God brought me Spencer, possessing qualities similar to Otis and Phil.  On earth, life isn’t easy, filled with unexpected twists and turns.  Sometimes the bad sticks around much longer than glimpses of hope that I see momentarily.  However, in the end, its important to find friends of laughter to get you through trials and tribulations in this life.  As 2016 is about to begin, I pray that I can bring joy to others like these 3 friends have brought to me.  Like the classic camp song proclaims, Pass It On!

by Jay Mankus

 

Captivated or Captured?

Growing up in the 1980’s, arcades, malls and skating rinks were places teenagers congregated for social interaction.  Subsequently, I developed a soft spot in my heart for video games, longing to master the pattern for Pac-Man, flip Space Invaders from 999,999 back to zero on my Atari and complete every stage of Dragon’s Lair, one of the first games in 3D.  Looking back, I wonder if I was merely captivated by this new form of entertainment or was I captured by the devil, 2 Corinthians 4:4?

Compromise doesn’t happen over night.  Rather, the father of lies places subtle thoughts into your mind, hoping you will bite, James 1:13-15.  For the first 14 years of my life, I was hooked, spending countless hours on my Atari seeking to enter the hall of fame for each game I owned, taking a picture with a polaroid camera of my score or time.  However, with each accomplishment, excitement soon passed, creating a void in my heart that video games did not fulfill.  Breaking this habit was difficult, needing assistance from a higher power.

By the middle of my sophomore year of high school, I was ready, captivated by a man in wheelchair, claiming to be a famous athlete.  After receiving over 1,000 full scholarships in 4 different sports, a water skiing accident left Skip Wilkins paralyzed from the waist down.  Despite his humbling disposition, there was something different about him.  Whatever Skip had inside of him, I wanted.  Thus, when an altar call was offered, I was one of the first to come down, captivated by a godly witness and now captured by a forgiving Savior, Romans 10:9-10.

by Jay Mankus

Blotting Out Your Past

Whether you’re young or old, everyone has scars, wounds from the past which mask pain and suffering.  Like  bringing home a brand new car, dings, scratches and wear quickly appear.  Perfection fades ushering in guilt, shame and uncomfortable feelings.  These emotions prompt individuals to yearn to blot out their past.

As David comes to grips with his rebellious ways in Psalm 51:1, he leans on God’s mercy.  Images of his sin haunt David, brought to the forefront of his mind by the devil.  Snapping out of his mean streak, a humbled heart brings this servant of God to his knees.  Like resetting a video game to start over after making a careless error, we have all longed for God to blot out portions of our past.

Although memories will always return, God’s love can turn the ugliness of sin into snow, restoring a sense of purity to souls, Isaiah 1:18.  The message of resurrection isn’t limited to one day or merely for a season.  Rather, the triumph of Jesus over the cross, Colossians 2:15 is available daily, Lamentations 3:22-23.  Therefore, don’t let the devil steal your joy any longer, John 10:10; hit the reset button by asking God to blot out the sins of your past.

Please feel free to share testimonies of God’s power to forgive.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Video Game Mentality

Young people have become experts in the video game realm.  Whether its XBox, Play Station, Wi or online gaming, their hours spent learning how to play, reading books on short cuts and mastering each level of their favorite game is impressive.  Yet, if I asked these same people if they knew what the King James, Living, NAS or NIV was, most would struggle to comprehend why there are so many different versions of the Bible.  However, if I combined the 2, maybe I could reach a common ground to speak on their level, with a video game mentality.

One of my favorite passages of the Bible is Colossians 3:17 and 3:23.  The New International Version  says “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, verse 17a.”  Or with a similar concept, “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, verse 23.”  If there was such a thing as the New Video Game Translation, this is my best interpretation of this passage.  Put all your effort and focus into each game, hitting the reset button if necessary.  Keep on trying until you reach the next level.  Don’t stop there.  Rather, keep going until you know every move, every aspect and every secret of each game.  Pass on your knowledge and move on to the next adventure, challenge and further versions.

If young people dedicated their lives to Christ like they do with video games, the next great awakening would commence.  Likewise, if prayer replaced countless hours in front of a computer, game system or television screens, endless lives could be transformed.  However, living in the world and not being lead by it is another story.  Achieving balance in life is crucial, maximizing your time with fun, pleasure and work.  When these games become the Lord of young people’s lives, behaviors often change for the worse as an addictive nature engrosses their minds.  The only way to crack this video game mentality is through the giver of life, James 1:18.  Don’t ever stop believing that young men and women can change, Romans 12:1-2.  Place your requests before the Lord so that this mindset can be broken, 2 Corinthians 4:4.

by Jay Mankus

The Olive Grove

There was a time in America when Hide and Go Seek was for more popular than playing video games.  Although not everyone runs the same speed, creative minds often found the best hiding spots.  Depending upon the size of your neighborhood or the boundaries children set, some games might last hours, searching for the last person.  On several occasions, this hider would come out, saving their hiding place for another game.

In John 18:1-9, the disciple whom Jesus loved takes readers into the disciples secret place, where they often met.  Beyond the Kidron Valley, Jesus took his disciples to an olive grove, hidden from the large crowds which followed Jesus.  Thus, John reveals these details to explain how Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, knew where to find Jesus when other religious leaders could not.

Like the old commercial slogan, “Calgon take me away,” everyone from time to time needs a place to get away.  Whether its a place like Cheers, where people know you by name or a secret hide away, rest and relaxation is essential for the human soul.  Though Sunday is a day of worship, God also wants individuals to rest, unwind and relax.  Therefore, whether you select an olive grove like Jesus, a quiet place or an activity you enjoy, recharge your internal batteries soon or else you might run out of gas.

by Jay Mankus

Spiritual Mulligans

According to the United States Golf Association Museum, the term mulligan originated from one of 3 potential sources.  David Mulligan, a regular at St. Lambert Country Club in Montreal, Quebec didn’t like his tee shot on the first hole one day so he re-teed trying to correct the mistake on his first swing.  While he called his second tee ball a correction, his playing partners dubbed this shot a “mulligan.”  Meanwhile, John “Buddy” Mulligan was a member of Essex Fells Country Club in New Jersey.  Developing a reputation for replaying poor shots, some claim this term was founded by Buddy himself.  Finally, since Mulligan was a common last name of Irish immigrants, others believe this term initiated from an Irish golfer playing somewhere in the Northeastern part of America in the early 1900’s.  Whoever coined this phrase, a mulligan is another name for a do-over, a second chance at redemption.

During his 2 terms as President from 1993-2001, Bill Clinton became an avid golfer.  This love for the game of golf has led Bill to Host the Humana Challenge, this week’s PGA tour stop beginning January 17th-20th in La Quinta, California, formerly known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic.  President Clinton is also passionate about mulligans, something he often abused during his rounds of golf as president.  In fact, some of his playing partners over the years of his presidency began to rename mulligans Clintons.  Today, golf fundraisers all across America use a scramble format, allowing participants a chance to purchase mulligans so that their team score might have a better chance of winning the grand prize.  Whatever the final result, mulligans make the game of golf much more enjoyable for the average amateur golfer.

The prophet Jeremiah eludes to mulligans in Lamentations 3:22-23.  However, in this context he is referring to a spiritual mulligan.  Although you may have a bad day, either failing and or sinning, God wipes your slate clean every morning.  Like resetting a video game after getting off to a poor start, God is able to erase any bad shot or sin from His memory, Psalm 103:11-12.  Hollywood’s version of mulligans is demonstrated by Bill Murray in Groundhog Day as he kept reliving the same day over and over until he got it right.  Unfortunately for human beings, the Bible tells us we will never get it right according to Romans 3:22-23.  Yet, like the words of Jeremiah, the apostle Paul reminds mankind that Jesus became our bad shots in life, our sin, so that we might have a chance at redemption, Romans 3;24-26.  Placing your faith in Jesus is the only way to obtain a spiritual mulligan, Matthew 16:25-27.

by Jay Mankus

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