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A Proactive Approach to Stop the Root of Bitterness

I spent my final year of college taking agricultural engineering classes. Some of my classmates who grew up on farms in southern Delaware joked about all the lawncare companies that claimed to have the secret to ridding yards of weeds. Years later while teaching, I spent summers working for a local Hardscaping company. One of the products we used on the job was Roundup. Before the recent lawsuit against Roundup, I discovered that most store-bought brands were watered down, needing to place a special order for the potent stuff.

Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing), in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoots forth and causes trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it—Hebrews 12:15.

The author of Hebrews brings up a spiritual weed. One of the Veggie Tales videos brought up a similar concept in the Rumor Weed. Instead of dramatizing how quickly rumors can spread, one first century historian touches on the dangers of bitterness. Like opening a door for the Devil to enter your life, Ephesians 4:26-27, if bitterness is allowed to linger within your heart, it can poison your soul. Jesus talks about this in His Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:22. Perhaps, envy and jealous conceived within Cain the root of bitterness that ultimately led him to take Abel’s life.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [do not offend or vex or sadden Him], by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God’s own, secured) for the day of redemption (of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin). 31 Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind), Ephesians 4:30-31.

Following the apostle Paul’s introduction to giving the Devil an open door, a few verses later there are additional consequences of the root of bitterness. One byproduct is grieving the Holy Spirit by lashing out in a fit of rage, frustrated by a specific person or situation in life. Two chapters later, the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-20 serves as a proactive approach to stop the root of bitterness from spreading like a spiritual cancer. As you learn to put on each of these pieces of spiritual armor daily, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, bitterness will begin to fade.

by Jay Mankus

Embrace Contentment or Revel in Bitterness

I’ve had my most trying week of 2022. While I try not to read too much into daily events, failure and rejection have been a common theme in the past 72 hours. On one side of this internal wresting match, human nature lurks, tempting me to revel in bitterness, gossip and pity. On the other, a still small voice is whispering “embrace contentment.” If you’re wondering, I still haven’t made a decision.

Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand, Proverbs 19:21.

One of the messages that I keep trying to tell myself comes from King Solomon. “Many are the plans in a man’s mind, but God’s purpose will prevail.” However, when you’re about to move and my request for a lateral hardship transfer to South Carolina has been denied, the uncertainty of my future is eating at me. Perhaps, I’ve been too comfortable in my current position, and this is God’s way of rocking my boat.

Then Satan answered the Lord, Does Job [reverently] fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not put a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have conferred prosperity and happiness upon him in the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has, and he will curse You to Your face. 12 And the Lord said to Satan (the adversary and the accuser), Behold, all that he has is in your power, only upon the man himself put not forth your hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord, Job 1:9-12.

Like the words of Moses’ farewell address to Israel, I can either choose life or death, contentment or bitterness. Although my trial of having two different cars not start for me and break down, this is nothing compared to what one man faced in Job 1-2. Maybe I need to take a deep breath, go to sleep and hope this week was just a bad dream. That didn’t work! The next time you encounter one of those Murphy Law days, weeks, months or year, embrace contentment or revel in bitterness. The choice is yours.

by Jay Mankus

Why Hurt People Begin to Hurt Others

Every day hurt people are like ticking time bombs. Depending upon the circumstances going on in their lives, once the wrong situation comes along, there are usually no warning signs. When a frustrated individual snaps, negative energy is unleashed upon everyone in the room where this unfortunate event takes comes. Like someone under the influence of alcohol, it may take hurt people a few days to realize the pain they’ve inflicted upon innocent souls.

When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. 27 Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]. 28 Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need, Ephesians 4:26-28.

During a letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul begins to diagnose why emotional outbursts happen. The initial issue is anger that goes unresolved. Instead of explaining one’s frustration, this fury is swept under the rug temporarily. As days lead to weeks, a root of bitterness brews within human hearts. Meanwhile, this open door gives the Devil a foothold, an opportunity for hurt people to be used as a vessel of darkness.

I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. 10 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 [b]overflows), John 10:9-10.

Jesus predicted this scenario 2000 years ago. Whenever someone can not distinguish the voice of God from whispers of the Devil, self fulfilled prophecies begin to occur. Hurt and negative people begin a steady decline as hope and joy seems to disappear. To those who reach this spiritual condition, the Devil will steal, kill and destroy the lives of hurt people. If you feel like your life is too far gone, remember the words of Paul so that in your own weakness, Christ will become strong, 2 Corinthians 12:7-12.

by Jay Mankus

Bitterness or Sweet?

Depending upon how well your are connected in your community or at work, it doesn’t take much to notice the content from the disenfranchised.  Some people feed off of bitterness, often poisoning positive individuals.  Meanwhile, the encouraging need to work extra hard to ward off negativity.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; Hebrews 12:15.

When my children  were younger, I enjoyed watching Veggie Tales.  My favorite was the Rumor Weed illustrating an important lesson for anyone.  If you allow evil to take root in your life, bitterness usually follows.  For this reason, the author Hebrews warns readers about how bitterness can become an obstacle to obtaining God’s grace.

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

Sweetness is received when sinners are forgiven, pardoned by God through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Yet, there are forces of darkness that continue to steal joy from this life.  As demonic influences manipulate unknowing accomplices, some are deceived calling evil good.  If you listen and watch carefully to voices in the media, Isaiah’s prophecy is being fulfilled.  In view of this growing bitterness, may the power of the Holy Spirit protect you and lead you to the sweet promises of hope found in the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

Satan’s Secret Ambition

Anytime an individual loses a lofty status, there is something inside that churns souls to regain that which was lost.  This same passion was present inside Lucifer once expelled from heaven along with a third of the angels.  Satan’s secret ambition is revealed during Jesus’ fast prior to beginning His earthly ministry.  Bitterness, revenge and selfishness fueled this arch angel, waiting for a chance to get pay back.

You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.  You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you, Ezekiel 28:14-15.

According to the Gospels, the first 4 books of the New Testament, Jesus withdraws into the wilderness, a barren region filled with sand, scorpions and serpents.  Hungry and weakening due to the heat, Satan implements a set of 3 challenges to the son of God.  Jesus passes the first test by quoting scripture.  Satan replies with another passage from the Old Testament.  Although Jesus could have fulfilled the second request, this required Jesus to call upon angels for selfish reasons, similar to Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me,” Matthew 4:8-9.

Passing the first two tests with flying colors, Satan offers Jesus the earthly authority Adam lost in the Garden of Eden after failing to keep God’s only rule.  Satan doubled down, desperately seeking praise from God in the form of Jesus bowing down.  Despite a lack of food and sleep, Jesus refused to give into temptation, relying on the Word of God to do the right thing.  Although, Satan did achieve his ultimate goal when Jesus was crucified on a cross, victory only lasted a few days before the resurrection sealed his fate.  In view of Jesus’ final battle, remember that Jesus conquered death so that you and I might live in Him.

by Jay Mankus

A Reunion of Sorts

Time has a way of healing wounds from the past.  Although things will never be the same, when you run into an old face, its nice to reminisce.  If you have the opportunity to talk long enough, you may even encounter a reunion of sorts.

Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence, Isaiah 43:26.

Unfortunately, human emotions struggle to overlook transgressions of the past.  Some people may never recover from the heartache they have endured in life.  Thus, forgiveness is sometimes an empty word spoken as bitterness causes individuals to hold grudges.  Subsequently, until reconciliation occurs, a true reunion will have to wait.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, Acts 3:19.

While interacting at a graduation party over the weekend, I learned a painful lesson.  Before you can move forward, you have to let go your past.  It may be a tough pill to swallow, but repentance without acts of contrition is meaningless.  Therefore, bury the hatchet now while there is still time so that a full reunion can be completed.

by Jay Mankus

Finding Treasures in Darkness

In the midst of a storm, darkness prevents most individuals from seeing any meaning or purpose in trials.  Instead of reflection, anguish, bitterness and resentment are common responses.  Yet, in my most recent period a pleasant surprise arrived in the form of a special friendship.  After both losing our jobs a month apart, God allowed each of us console one another, finding a treasure in darkness.

I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name, Isaiah 45:3.

In the famous poem simply known as Footprints, the author writes about periods in life where God carries you.  Walking along a beach, the Lord’s footprints disappear as each waves comes crashing into shore.  Yet, somehow, someway, most survive to see another day, hoping darkness will fade.  Job learned this the hard way as he friends began to question his faith, suggesting God was punishing him for something he had done in the past.

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold, Job 23:10.

As you walk through moments of darkness alone, people tend to choose temporary distractions to numb the pain inside their heart.  Nonetheless, the weaker you get, the easier it becomes to trust in an invisible God.  When there is no one else to lean on, faith is refined, smelting the impurities.  However, if you hang on long enough like Job, you will experience God’s divine providence in the form of treasures in darkness.

by Jay Mankus

 

When Bitterness Leads to Violence

There are certain events in life that leave a taste of bitterness.  Such is the case of Samson when his father in law gave the woman he loved to another man.  While the rock group Def Leppard sings about how love bites, Samson’s experience brings a whole new perspective to this saying.  Subsequently, Samson verbalizes his displeasure vowing to seek revenge.

Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them,” Judges 15:3.

In the heat of the moment, justifying your actions is easy to do.  Like Samson, certain offenses make individuals believe that they have the right to retaliate.  Thus, this selfish act by a father ignited anger with Samson to get even with the Philistines.  Without anyone around to calm him down, Samson lived the rest of his life with a heart set on violence.

The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence, Psalm 11:5.

When freewill is exercised on a daily basis, there are innocent victims.  Caught in the cross hairs, these unfortunate souls are left to wonder, “what did I do to deserve this?”  How these people respond will dictate their final destination?  Therefore, guard yourself against the root of bitterness.  Rather, pray that the love will give you a spirit of forgiveness to prevent you from lashing out at those whom do you wrong.

by Jay Mankus

Traces of Decay

As a car ages, there are certain subtle signs which convey a vehicle on its last legs.  Driveways become stained with oil, unusual noises will surface and acceleration pauses just a bit before finally kicking in.  Although modes of transportation can be lemons, there are plenty of what people call “old reliable” which get you where you need to go.  However, traces of decay should serve as a warning that it may be time to move on.

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return, Genesis 3:19.

Meanwhile, human beings possess there own signals that they are about to breakdown.  Frustration, irritations and unhappy faces can be like taking a look under the hood.  While individuals can put on fake smiles, inside bitterness can erupt into a raging inferno.  On the other side of the spectrum, discontentment cause many to lose that loving feeling for life, slipping into periods of depression, despondence or isolation.  As these stages approach, intervention is essential before traces of decay turn into reality.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away, Revelation 21:4.

As for me, I find myself taking on a new persona when I get into my car.  Suddenly, I become perfect and all the drivers around me are idiots.  My commentary is relentless, lasting throughout my travels.  This self seeking nature is fueled by a desire to get home, abandoning the rules of the road like a politician during an election year.  Recently, these traces of decay have come to my attention, one of many stains of sin within my heart.  If you too are feeling like you’re going down the wrong road, may the Holy Spirit serve as a pit crew, cleaning up the messes you have made, one sin at a time.

by Jay Mankus

I Can’t Get Over It

A recent episode of Deadliest Catch showed the reaction of fans to Russell Wilson’s interception in the final minute of last year’s Superbowl.  The crew of the Northwestern based out of Seattle could not believe the Seahawks opted to pass rather than rely on their patented running attack.  When you are only one yard from tasting victory, its hard for individuals to get over this heart breaking loss.

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled, Hebrews 12:14-15.

It’s one thing to lose a game, yet in life there are several disappointments people encounter that can linger.  These scars are like bad dreams, nightmares that don’t go away.  When you add emotions into this equation, human nature can be unforgiving.  Thus, the next time you try to console someone who is hurting, don’t be surprised if you hear, “I can’t get over it!”

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice, Ephesians 4:31.

Storybook endings are usually something you see in the movie theater or at home as a rerun.  While this feel good conclusion may bring tears of joy, the rest of the world is stuck in the past, unable to move on.  Tempted by bitterness, frustration and a wounded soul, some feel better venting rather than cope with the issue at hand.  Before the voices of your past drag you to indulge in another pity party, may the love of Christ help you get over it by moving on with the rest of your life.

by Jay Mankus

 

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