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Acts 29

The title of today’s blog is a trick question. While I was a young Christian in college listening to a motivational speaker, he asked the audience to open their Bibles and turn to Acts 29. Most of the room was flipping through the beginning of the New Testament, unable to find this page or chapter. This search continued for several minutes until one bold individual spoke out, “there is no chapter 29, Acts only has 28 chapters.”

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth, Acts 1:8.

This pop quiz left many in the room embarrassed. As the speaker began his lesson, this opening question served two purposes. First, this man urged believers to become better students of God’s Word. Second, to view life in terms of an unfinished chapter of the Bible where God uses modern Christians to fulfill the great commission, Acts 1:8. This 60 minute speech made a long lasting impact on my life, instilling a desire to ascertain God’s will for my own life, Romans 12:1-2.

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:2.

To prepare for today’s blog, I did a search for Acts 29 for fun to see what I would find. To my surprise, Acts 29 is a diverse, global family of church planters who seek to carry on the work of the apostle Paul. This ministry is characterized by theological clarity, cultural engagement, and missional innovation as churches are planted throughout the world. One of my searches located beliefs and theories that Acts 29 is simply missing. Since Acts 28 does not reveal the outcome of Paul’s trial in Rome, common sense suggests there must be another chapter. Whatever the reason for this abrupt ending, may this blog inspire you to seize each day with a renewed desire to fulfill the great commission.

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

Gulping Down Evil

Prior to 1955, a bottle of Coca Cola was 6.5 ounces.  If you pour 5 of these into a big gulp cup, the final one will spill out over the top.  Realizing the need for expansion, Coca Cola experimented with a 32 ounce cup supplied to 7 Eleven chains in Southern California.  By 1976, despite public pressure concerning obesity, the Big Gulp was conceived.

A corrupt witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil, Proverbs 19:28.

Although 7 Eleven stores did not exist during the Old Testament, there were some individuals who developed reputations as heavy drinkers.  Since Jewish weddings could last up to a week, guests who traveled from out of town were wined and dined.  Participating in these festivities likely influenced the words King Solomon chose in the passage above.  Comparing drinking to corruption, there are some people who gulp down evil.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20

Almost 20 years ago, my friend and I both contradicted Lyme Disease in the same summer.  While my symptoms were caught early, his went overlooked for several months.  Unfortunately, he lost his sense of taste, unable to distinguish between that which is sweet or bitter.  The same can be said about individuals who can’t discern between good from evil.  Subsequently, its possible for a wayward soul to reach a place where one begins to gulp evil.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Can I Get A Witness?

Depending upon the context, the phrase “can I get a witness” has different meanings.  If you’re in a car accident, a witness could determine if your insurance will rise or stay the same.  In the court of law, a good or bad witness can sway the outcome of a trial.  Meanwhile, movies like School Ties reveal how anyone who sees a person cheat is encouraged to turn the guilty party in or the ethics code as a whole fails.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house, Matthew 5:14-15.”

From a spiritual perspective, Christians are suppose to stand out as shinning examples of God’s light.  Essentially people of faith are called to emulate the Bible’s truth by demonstrating fruits of the Holy Spirit.   Although many choose to be a chameleon, blending into the world, Jesus calls these individuals out, claiming the light is not in them, 1 John 2:11.  Thus, preachers today often make a plea from their pulpits in the form of “can I get a witness?”

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of ajny kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people, Ephesians 5:3.

The type of witness the Bible is searching for possesses a genuine spirit, full of grace.  While these standards are hard to live up to, Jesus sets the bar high, Matthew 5:48.  As you wake up, you may not feel like following in the footsteps of Jesus.  Nonetheless, the strength of Christ in you will surpass what human limits allow, Philippians 4:13.  Therefore, if you want to please the Lord, stand up today by being an unabashed witness for Jesus Christ.

by Jay Mankus

 

Stuck on the Sidelines

When I competed in sports, I never realized what a parent goes through until I became one.  Sure, I remember having butterflies on the first tee, throwing the first pitch or standing on the starting block, but after a while these nervous feelings become part of the game.  From the sidelines, I’m helpless, just a voice of encouragement, biting my nails, pacing around and hoping my child doesn’t embarrass themselves.

As my oldest son James sets out to play in his second consecutive state golf tournament, there isn’t anyone else to blame.  There are no umpires who can miss a call.  No referees to influence the outcome of the game.  In golf, you are the team and when you mess up its obvious.  Well, let’s see…  You can hit a house, a spectator, visit the beach or take a dive in an adjacent waterway.  When you’re stuck on the sidelines as a golf parent, every shot is a gut wrenching adventure.

During the game of life, the Lord doesn’t abandon you.  According to Hebrews 12:1, a great crowd of witnesses is sitting in the grandstands called heaven.  Saints, past and present are sending out prayers to help each participant to cross the finish line.  Although you may be lost in the woods or stuck in a hazard, God sends angels to set you free from these precarious situations, Psalm 30:1-3.  If you’re stuck on the sidelines like me, remember the promise of Philippians 4:6-7 to get you through each day.

by Jay Mankus

Boundaries, Bounties and Blown Opportunities

I witnessed a pastor go old school today, committing what some may call social suicide.  Taking no prisoners, this man of the cloth convicted households who display little boundaries or prefer to be their child’s best friend.  When parents don’t say no, define acceptable perimeters or clarify right from wrong behavior for their children, kids become one with the world.  Instead of being transformed by the word of God, Romans 12:1-2, teenagers are becoming like dust in the wind, blown from one trend to the next.

Today, more than ever, society has been turned upside down, just watch any commercial airing in prime time which ties sex to their products.  In the Wild West, cities and town offered bounties for anyone who were able to help authorities catch a criminal wanted for a hideous act.  If only an entrepreneur had enough money to offer rewards for good behavior, perhaps this country might return to its Judeo-Christian heritage.  Unfortunately, lines drawn in the sand keep moving, enforced differently by the government, leaders and schools, resulting in a generation of confusion.

From my own perspective, its frustrating to look back on all the blown opportunities I missed as a father.  Depression, fatigue and time have chipped away the standards I want to consistently uphold for my family.  Although I would like to turn the clock back, all I can do is look to history to avoid future failures.  Essentially, I need to become a Moses’ like figure, clearly communicating God desires for daily living, Exodus 19:3-6.  The best advice for anyone wrestling with parenting is found in Proverbs 22:6, “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  May the words of the Bible provide blueprints for youth and adults struggling to identify absolutes, Psalm 119:105.

by Jay Mankus

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