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Tag Archives: character

Living in a Land of Lions

When you read the Old Testament, certain sections are clear and concise. God’s nature is often revealed by using specific commands to illustrate the importance of obedience. Those who follow the Lord are blessed and those who fail to follow God’s directions are cursed. There is no halfway, it’s either all or nothing.

Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; the words which he had spoken to the king they told also to their father. 12 Their father asked them, Which way did he go? For his sons had seen which way the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13 He said to his sons, Saddle the donkey for me. So they saddled the donkey and he rode on it, 1 King 13:11-13.

In the passage above and below, a prophet of the Lord is fooled by a lie. Apparently, this liar was paid off by King Jeroboam, persuaded to prophecize good and positive messages to enhance his reign. When news of a miracle performed by a visiting prophet from Judah reach this wayward man, he was desperate to meet him. When his own sons were unsuccessful, this discredited prophet makes up an encounter with an angel to change his mind.

He said, I may not return with you or go in with you, neither will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. 17 For I was told by the word of the Lord, You shall not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way that you came. 18 He answered, I am a prophet also, as you are. And an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied to him. 19 So the man from Judah went back with him and ate and drank water in his house, 1 Kings 13:16-19.

Taking this man at his word, this young prophet disobeys God by staying an extra day in this corrupt land. Although a loving God would forgive modern transgressions, God’s command was to not eat or drink another meal before leaving. While this doesn’t seem fair, obedience matters to God. Thus, while bending the rules on this occasion seemed okay, a lion was sent to kill this prophet on his way back home to Judah.

And after the prophet of the house had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the donkey for the man he had brought back. 24 And when he had gone, a lion met him by the road and slew him, and his corpse was cast in the way, and the donkey stood by it; the lion also stood by the corpse. 25 And behold, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown in the road, and the lion standing by the corpse, and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt. 26 When the prophet who brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, It is the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and slain him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to him, 1 Kings 13:23-26.

This story is mentioned in the Bible to serve as a remainder that obedience matters. Making up the rules as you go isn’t an option for a servant of God. While those outside the church may get away with telling a lie from time to time, you can’t fool God as Paul suggests in Galatians 6:7-8. You reap what you sow. Although you probably won’t cross paths with a lion, make sure you’re sowing seeds of encouragement rather than lies of deceit.

by Jay Mankus

Suffer Now or Suffer Later

Suffer is defined as an experience where you are being subjected to something bad or unpleasant. Affliction, distress, grief, misery, pain, sadness and trauma are byproducts of suffering. While the Bible contains numerous accounts of suffering, the story of Job is unfathomable. Messenger after messenger brought Job news of disaster and tragedy, Job 1:15-19. Raids, a natural disaster and war took away all of his animals and killed his children. A chapter later, God allows Satan to attack Job’s health, filled with boils, similar to an extreme reaction to poison ivy. Despite an urging from his wife, Job did not blame or curse God for his suffering.

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

The apostle Paul provides a biblical perspective of suffering in the passage above. While celebrating hardship is the last thing on my mind, Paul attempts to help his readers see the big picture. Suffering for doing the right thing, standing up for the right causes or walking with Jesus is like earning a spiritual merit badge. Meanwhile, even if you endure unexplained tribulations, the process of suffering builds character, endurance and maturity according to Jesus’ earthly brother, James 1:2-4. Thus, suffering now is better than suffering later in hell. Developing this biblical mindset toward suffering will bring a new perspective.

And the beast was seized and overpowered, and with him the false prophet who in his presence had worked wonders and performed miracles by which he led astray those who had accepted or permitted to be placed upon them the stamp (mark) of the beast and those who paid homage and gave divine honors to his statue. Both of them were hurled alive into the fiery lake that burns and blazes with brimstone, Revelation 19:20. Then the devil who had led them astray [deceiving and seducing them] was hurled into the fiery lake of burning brimstone, where the beast and false prophet were; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (through the ages of the ages), Revelation 20:10.

In the passages above, John shares vivid details of visions of what hell will be like. Revelation 19 suggests that enemies of God will be hurled into a lake of fire alive. The imagery of this suffering is consistent with the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. The wealthy man complains of torment, begging to dip his tongue in cool water. Despite being on fire, death does not occur, resulting in continuous suffering. Meanwhile, Revelation 20 takes this one step further, suffering and torment will occur day after day for ages and ages. After hearing a recent sermon on this topic, I am more convinced than ever to suffer now rather than suffer for eternity.

by Jay Mankus

Malicious Accusations

Some of the Psalms in the Bible are like pages out of David’s personal diary. David went from a lonely shepherd boy to a war hero, killing a giant called Goliath. This unlikely rise to greatness incited a spirit of jealousy in those whom David surpassed. Chants by fans of his victorious battles even caused King Saul to become envious of David’s accomplishments. Thus, David quickly gained several enemies who spewed malicious accusations, some warranted and others unwarranted.

Although my father and my mother have forsaken me, yet the Lord will take me up [adopt me as His child]. Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain and even path because of my enemies [those who lie in wait for me], Psalm 27:10-11.

When these words began to eat away at David’s soul, he cried out to the Lord for help. Based upon the passage above, David’s own parents turned against him for undisclosed reasons. When you examine Samuel’s visit to Jesse in 1 Samuel 16, it appears that David’s oldest brother Eliab was the apple of his parents’ eyes. David was an after thought, not even invited to this special meeting. Yet, at some point, David’s fame and popularity created a rift or David’s parents were embarrassed by some of his ill-advised decisions.

Give me not up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen up against me; they breathe out cruelty and violence. [What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living! – Psalm 27:12-13

One of the translations of verse 12 uses malicious accusations in place of cruelty and violence. Perhaps, David became cocky, conceited by his success as a soldier. This unhealthy pattern is played out in 2 Samuel 11 as David has an affair with a soldier’s wife. Instead of confessing his sin publicly, David gave orders for Israel’s army to withdraw, allowing Uriah to die behind enemy lines. While David didn’t like the malicious accusations made against him, his actions made the bed he was forced to lie in. While you can’t control what others say about you, a life devoted to character and integrity can persuade former enemies to change their minds about you.

by Jay Mankus

The Words You Speak

After experiencing another disappointing month, I find myself in the middle of a moral dilemma. Since the fall began, I have told family and friends of my aspirations to get back into shape, start eating healthier and lose weight. The climax of this preparation was a 5K that I ran last weekend. Well, after spewing endless words of my desire to change and improve my life, the only thing I accomplished was completing this race without walking.

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth, Ecclesiastes 7:1.

While driving home from work yesterday, I received a rhema from God in the form of a question. Are the words that you speak making you more or less credible? The Old Testament doesn’t use modern terms such as character, integrity or reputation. Rather, authors use the expression earning “a good name” instead. King Solomon compares a good name with a precious ointment. After accumulating wealth as Israel’s leader, Solomon claims that when you receive favor from your peers due to a good man, it’s more valuable than silver or gold.

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold, Proverbs 22:1.

If you want to develop and keep a good name, the words you say play a big role. For example, many Americans don’t like president Trump’s blunt nature, boldly speaking and tweeting brash comments daily. Yet, anyone who examines the promises Donald Trump made during the 2016 presidential campaign, his actions have fulfilled what he said and vowed to do. Unfortunately, I find myself telling my wife and kids that I am going to do this and that without following through. Just as faith without deeds is dead, James 2:26, words without action are meaningless. May God use my own conviction to inspire you to ensure that the words you speak coincide with your actions.

by Jay Mankus

A Win for the Ages

When fairy tale stories come true, sometimes Hollywood is criticized for an unbelievable ending.  Yet, what Nate Lashley accomplished last weekend can only be described as a win for the ages.  Lashley’s wire to wire victory at the Rocket Mortgage PGA Tour event in Detroit, Michigan seemed surreal.  Entering the final round with a six shot lead, commentators suggested that a collapse might come, causing Nate to fold under the pressure.  Instead, a Tiger Woods esc domination ensued as Lashley finished 25 under par, breezing to win this PGA event.  The context of what happened leading up to this victory makes Lashley’s accomplishment a real life Cinderella story and likely Disney movie in the making.

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.

Fifteen years ago, Nate Lashley was a rising college star playing for the Arizona Wildcats.  While competing in an NCAA qualifying tournament, his parents and girl-friend flew out to watch Nate play in the west regionals.  On the return flight, the plane piloted by Nate’s father crashed during a storm killing all three aboard.  This tragedy eventually caused Nate to leave golf, making a career as a real estate agent.  When Nate’s love for golf returned, nagging injuries prevented Lashley for reaching his full potential.  Playing on what is called a major medical exemption, Nate was running out of time to make enough money to keep his PGA tour card.  Thus, Nate attempted to Monday qualify for 4 spots in the Rocket Mortgage Tournament.  Lashley finished two shots out of a playoff, but a last second withdraw opened the door for Nate to become the last player in the field.

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.

As a viewer of this amazing feat, Lashley’s rise to the top is a story of courage, faith and perseverance.  In the back of any mind, doubts whisper “you’ll never amount to anything; you’re not good enough or you don’t have what it takes.”  These inner demons prevent most people from fulfilling their dreams and purpose in life.  Yet, Nate Lashley’s win for the ages inspires me to not give up hope on accomplishing my own dreams in life.  Just as Jesus’ earthly brother writes about how trials strengthen faith, may God fill you will perseverance to fear any face and climb any mountain, no matter how high, in the future.

by Jay Mankus

Leaving God’s Footprint Behind

The Roman lyrical poet Horace first coined the Latin phrase carpe diem.  When translated into English, carpe diem loosely means to “seize the day.”  This may explain why professor John Keating, a poetry teacher played by Robin Williams in the film Dead Poets Society references this expression.  When applied to a Christian faith, believers should be focused on leaving God’s footprint behind.

For Barnabas was a good man [privately and publicly—his godly character benefited both himself and others] and he was full of the Holy Spirit and full of faith [in Jesus the Messiah, through whom believers have everlasting life]. And a great number of people were brought to the Lord.  And Barnabas left for Tarsus to search for Saul; Acts 11:24-25.

Luke introduces a man named Joseph in Acts 4:36-37 who developed the nick name Barnabas, “son of encouragement” for his generous donations to the church.  When Jesus’ disciples were skeptical of Saul’s conversion to Christ, it was Barnabas who defended his faith, Acts 9:27.  In the passage above, Luke reveals the secret behind Barnabas’ success, full of the Holy Spirit.  At some point, God called Barnabas to disciple Saul, investing one year of his life to nurture his faith.

And when he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. For an entire year they met [with others] in the church and instructed large numbers; and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians, Acts 11:26.

By the time these men left, Antioch became a symbol of God’s footprint on earth.  As members of the church emulated the life and teachings of Jesus, community members referred to this group of believers as Christians.  Today, Professor William Rees is the father of carbon footprints, derived from a paper, Environment and Urbanization, written in 1992.  While Christians should be good stewards of the earth God created, the Holy Spirit is searching for individuals who want to leave behind God’s footprint wherever you go and whatever you do.

by Jay Mankus

Upset: Dejection or Motivation?

When individuals do not experience a desired outcome, a wave of emotions come forth. As reality sets in, the finality of failure can be unsettling. In the context of sports, when the better team on paper with more talent loses, this is considered an upset. When players walk off a court or field staring defeat in the face, there are two logical options: dejection or motivation.

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.

Like any grieving process, souls initially become dejected. Depression, despair and unhappiness are like bumps in the road toward healing. However, if you don’t experience a moral victory or taste success soon, hearts can become heavy. Glimmers of hope are like rays of sunshine to help people realize that they are going to make it through another storm.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

Anyone who hates to lose will find some sort of motivation to avoid a similar fate. After getting cut from his high school basketball team, Michael Jordan went on to earn a college scholarship, make the NBA and become one of the greatest players of all time. Instead of dwelling on self pity fueled by dejection, motivation can bring you out of desolation. Like Jesus said while talking to his disciples, “anything is possible with God.”

by Jay Mankus

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