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Do You Have it All Together?

As a recovering perfectionist, hints of chaos is an unpleasant sight.  For some reason, I feel the need to give the impression that I have it all together.  Everything is fine, it is well with my soul.  I wish this was the case, but often I find myself on the verge on collapse.  Hanging by a thread, like the classic Mike and the Mechanics song.  Thus, if you want a simple answer, no I don’t have it all together.

Now while they were on their way, Jesus entered a village [called Bethany], and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching. 40 But Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities; and she approached Him and said, “Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me and do her part,” Luke 10:38-40.

While admission, confession is the first step on the road to recovery, the next logical question is if I don’t have it all together, what’s the problem?  To start with, perfectionists like me tend to suffer from the Martha complex.  A first century doctor refers to this condition as concentrating and fixating on the external.  Instead of entering into a deep and meaningful conversation with Jesus, Martha was focused on making her house spotless.  Consumed by trying to be a good host, Martha missed the point, life is about relationships not perfection.

But the Lord replied to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part [that which is to her advantage], which will not be taken away from her,” Luke 10:41-42.

Part of my perfectionist rehab involves abstaining from the need to be a workaholic by slowing down enough to entertain small talk.  While these daily conversations may not get very far or amount to anything, they set the stage for permanent meaningful conversations to begin.  If you spend most of your time on earth busy, running around like your head is cut off (old youthism), you’ll never know what you have in common with others.  Therefore, as Christmas approaches, make sure you follow in the steps of Mary by choosing conversation as a means to pass time with family.

by Jay Mankus

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Celebration and Suffering

News of an expecting birth is worthy of a celebration in the form of baby shower.  After labor ushers into this world a new human being, joy consumes families of this infant.  In the years that follow, there are a series of memorable moments, first steps, first words and first day of school.  As new parents work together to raise children, celebrating is often replaced by suffering.  From childhood to adolescence, life only gets more complicated, especially for first time parents.  At some point, celebration fades away as suffering intensifies.  I don’t mean to be Ebenezer Scrooge, but this is a reality of life.

Now it happened that the poor man died and his spirit was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (paradise); and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades (the realm of the dead), being in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom (paradise), Luke 16:22-23.

After sharing the parable of the unjust manager, Jesus transitions into another parable.  Entitled the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus highlights a reason to celebrate and another to fear.  Using a story about a rich and poor man, Jesus uses a hypothetical scenario to detail what heaven and hell is like.  When Lazarus dies, God rewards this poor man with what Jesus calls paradise.  Meanwhile, a self-centered rich man who cared only about himself was sent to hell.  According to Jesus, hell is a place of eternal suffering, able to see those celebrating above, but unable to do anything to help their agony and pain.  This fact should convict and inspire the living to avoid a similar eternal destiny.

And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in severe agony in this flame,’ Luke 16:24.

In the previous chapter, Luke, a well known first century doctor recalls three parables that illustrate God’s grace, love and mercy.  Whether a possession is lost like a coin or pet, heaven celebrates each time a sinner repents.  Angels are programmed to embrace hearts that confess the error of their way.  Meanwhile, even if you are a prodigal son or daughter who has left your family, God will never abandon you.  These stories have been written to urge souls to surrender your life to follow Jesus.  Although this road is narrow as detailed by Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14, any worldly suffering that you might endure is worth this decision.  Therefore, do not ignore the passage listed above so that your eternal destination will be celebrated at your funeral rather than suffer, not knowing whether you are in heaven or hell.

by Jay Mankus

Addiction and Dieting

The Bible blames addiction on a hidden force within human bodies.  The apostle Paul refers to this as fleshly desires, a nature that leads individuals to give into sin.  Prior to the introduction of a spiritual law, this sinful nature went unnoticed, accepted as a part of life.  However, when you apply biblical principles to addiction and dieting, a first century Christian makes a shocking revelation.

We know that the Law is spiritual, but I am a creature of the flesh [worldly, self-reliant—carnal and unspiritual], sold into slavery to sin [and serving under its control]. 15 For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled and bewildered by them]. I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity], Romans 7:14-15.

No matter how hard you try to do the right thing, carnal, unspiritual and worldly influences often lead people to do the exact opposite.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul uses baffled and bewildered to explain his addictive actions.  Like someone in need of rehab, Paul couldn’t control himself, doing the very thing that he hates.  While I have never been to a detox center, I hope that these words of the apostle Paul are applied to modern clinics to help people see that addiction and dieting have a spiritual connection.

But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts]. 17 For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do. 18 But if you are guided and led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the Law, Galatians 5:16-18.

Since the end of November, I have been forced to drastically change my diet due to major health concerns.  As I have tried to eat right the last two weeks, I have found that my body is addicted to unhealthy food.  Like an alcoholic longing for a drink, my body daily craves junk food, sugar and sweets.  In the passage above, the cure to overcoming any addiction is provided.  Within any decision that you make, there are two forces waging war to control your soul.  The sinful nature and the Holy Spirit are like an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other, whispering into each ear.  Until individuals learn to habitually walk in the Holy Spirit, to keep in step with God’s Word, Galatians 5:25, success will be limited.  However, the more you apply these principles to addictions, bad habits and dieting, God can and will transform your life.

by Jay Mankus

Cardiomegaly

In the 1966 Christmas classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the narrator blames the Grinch’s attitude on an abnormally small heart.  As the citizens of Who-ville began to sing carols in preparation of Christmas, the Grinch started to devise a plan to steal their joy.  From a spiritual perspective, the Grinch represents Satan, seeking to steal, kill and destroy any glimpse of the real meaning of Christmas.  Yet, as his plan was interrupted by Little Cindy Lou Who, God used this child to penetrate the Grinch’s soul.  In one instant, when the meaning of Christmas was revealed, the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows], John 10:10.

The medical term for an enlarged heart is cardiomegaly.   This isn’t a disease, but rather a sign of another condition.  For example, during pregnancy, some mothers develop an enlarged heart.  This condition is usually temporary because of stress on your body.  Cardiomegaly can also be brought on by the weakening of the heart muscle, coronary artery disease or heart valve problems.  After three visits to a local cardiologist, I have been diagnosed with an enlarged heart.  My doctor wasn’t concerned, rather he wants me to come back in a year to monitor this condition.  Nonetheless, I do have something in common with the Grinch, an enlarged heart.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 36:26.

Throughout the Bible, there is an emphasis on pursuing a new heart.  The context of this reference is usually within a prayer.  King David asked God for a new heart after committing adultery and murder.  The prophet Jeremiah reveals how hearts can become deceitful, longing for fleshly desires instead of obeying God’s commands.  King Solomon refers to the heart as the well spring to life.  As I complete my 2500th blog, my prayer is that the Lord will create in me a new heart, full of forgiveness, love and mercy.  When individuals begin to demonstrate enlarged hearts seasoned with God’s grace, this world will become a better place to live.

by Jay Mankus

 

Don’t Overlook God’s Providence

Immediately following the Exodus out of Egypt, the Israelites fled into the desert.  When Pharaoh changed his mind, Moses led God’s people to the banks of the Red Sea.  Against all odds, the Lord enabled Moses to part this body of water before collapsing upon and swallowing up the Egyptian army.  After witnessing this miracle, any event that follows would be obscure.  Thus, when God magically sent bread, manna from heaven, the Jews slowly began to overlook the obvious.

And the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the Israelites no longer had manna, but they ate some of the produce of the land of Canaan during that year, Joshua 5:12.

Like any human being, time has a way of changing your perspective.  Initial awe, excitement and joy can fade when everything that follows is small in comparison.  Perhaps, this explains Jesus comment to one if his disciples, “blessed are those do not see me yet believe.”  The testimony of followers of Jesus immediately following his resurrection should have been enough.  Yet, doubt prevented Thomas from believing, needing to see with his own eyes.  When you live with a miracle worker every day for three years, at some point you begin to over look the obvious, expecting greater things.

Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, do you now believe? Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, and favored by God] are they who did not see [Me] and yet believed [in Me],” John 20:29.

As holiday shoppers rush through life to get their Christmas preparations in order, it’s hard to keep track of daily mundane responsibilities.  Meanwhile, subtle miracles are glanced over as God provides this or that without any praise or thanks.  Unfortunately, I tend to be the type of person who allows themselves to be pushed to the limit, on the verge of mental exhaustion weekly.  Thus, instead of seeing subtle signs of God’s providence, I have ignored the obvious.  I guess I need to follow the advice of the Psalmist by being still before God, Psalm 46:10.  When you do, you will stop overlooking the obvious by observing the hand of God over your life.

by Jay Mankus

Discipline, Fasting and Nutrition

Staying active can help your metabolism from slowing down.  According to an article on Livestrong.com, thermogenesis, the food processing part of your metabolism actually remains fairly steady throughout your adult life.  This is where discipline comes into play, resisting the urge to satisfy the earthly desires of hunger.  In the context of Olympic athletes, the apostle Paul refers to the rigid training necessary to compete at this level.  Like a boxer preparing for a title bout, discipline is essential to get yourself in the best possible shape to reach your full potential.

Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

Hunger is often dictated by the overall mood you are in.  Upon hearing bad news, appetite can be lost.  When a secret service agent, a body guard to the king receives news of Israel’s vulnerable state, Nehemiah is brought to tears.  This weeping inspired a fast, crying out to God in prayer for a plan to restore the walls surrounding Jerusalem.  Nehemiah’s fast lasted for a season, three to four months.  At the conclusion of this fast, detailed in chapter 2, God provides a clear vision, a plan of action to quickly restore this structure.  During any fast, abstaining from food for a period of time, tends to alter your perspective, seeing life or situations through God’s eyes.

They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its [fortified] gates have been burned (destroyed) by fire.”  Now it came about when I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying [constantly] before the God of heaven, Nehemiah 1:3-4.

When Babylon takes Israel captive in the Old Testament, chief officials brought some young boys to Babylon.  The goal was to retrain these young men into the ways of Babylonian traditions.  When a commander forced these men to alter their Jewish diet, a few refused to adhere to this daily ration.  Rather, Daniel came up with a ten day test.  This combination of fruit, vegetables and water is known as the Daniel fast.  At the end of this ten day challenge, those who participated with Daniel appeared to be healthier than those who ate the king’s finest food.  Learning to balance exercise with nutrition not only makes you feel better, but improves your overall appearance.

But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile (taint, dishonor) himself with the king’s finest food or with the wine which the king drank; so he asked the commander of the officials that he might [be excused so that he would] not defile himself, Daniel 1:8.

In the past decade, churches have challenged members of their congregation to participate in a fast each January.  Depending upon the pastor, fasts vary from a Daniel fast, media fast to a strict fluid only fast.  Over the last four years, I have done a nutrition based fast, giving up soda and other unhealthy foods I tend to eat.  I have had mixed results.  During the first fast, I was focused and dedicated, losing nearly twenty pounds in January.  Unfortunately, my latest fasts have been unproductive.  I guess I entered each of these without my heart truly into it.  Thus, the lack of results speaks for itself.  As a new year approaches, may the Holy Spirit prepare your hearts and mind now so that your next fast will be transformational.

by Jay Mankus

This One is For You

At any period in time, individuals will find themselves in either one of two states, blessed or in need.  This status can change at a moments notice, from having a high paying position with great benefits to being unemployed.  For those of you have endured the embarrassment of losing your job, this experience can be humbling.  Yet, life goes on, with or within out you.  The one thing God is eager to see is how will you respond to adversity?

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.

The odd thing about life is that sometimes when you think you are the person in need, someone else enters your life to help you realize how blessed you truly are.  When I moved off campus in college, I used fast food restaurants as places to study.  As long as you bought something to eat, refills were unlimited so I never ran out of caffeine.  One morning I went to McDonald’s for breakfast, celebrating the two for two dollar breakfast sandwich deal.  After quickly snarfing down my first sausage and egg McMuffin, I noticed a man who appeared to be homeless.  Before taking a bite of the second one, conviction consumed my soul.  Thirty seconds later, I got up, walked over and said, “this one is for you.”

But we commend ourselves in every way as servants of God: in great endurance, in sufferings, in hardships, in distresses, 2 Corinthians 6:4.

During the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul was diligent in his daily preparations.  The passage above reveals the mindset Paul possessed as a follower of Christ.  Paul wasn’t caught off guard or surprised like modern naïve Christians.  Rather, Paul knew the cost of serving God, making this known to fellow believers in the letter above.  To a certain extent, Paul appears to view himself as being blessed by God, always searching for opportunities to help others.  Despite criticism, pushback and rumors, Paul was determined to honor God whatever the cost.  This example should inspire people today to locate the down trodden, needy and poor; then extend the love of Christ by paying it forward, “this one is for you.”

by Jay Mankus

 

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