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Tag Archives: contentment

When the Rich Become Poor and Poor Feel Rich

My first job after graduating from the University of Delaware was the Workcamp Coordinator for the Methodist Action Plan. I was a social worker who made $500 in my first summer of living in the real world. Since I couldn’t afford rent, I slept on a couch in my sister’s basement. I got hired as a part time youth director in the fall and did a series of odd jobs to survive. Financially, I was poor but spiritually I felt rich due to a number of godly relationships.

As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be proud and arrogant and contemptuous of others, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but on God, Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for [our] enjoyment, 1 Timothy 6:17.

While writing a teenager pastor, the apostle Paul warns Timothy of how members of his congregation will be influenced by wealth. Perhaps Paul is reflecting upon the beatitudes mentioned at the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:1-12. Jesus brings this mentality full circle in Matthew 6:33-34 as money devalues an individual’s trust in God. When wealth is used to make problems disappear, this spiritual obstacle makes many rich people poor in faith.

[Charge them] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal and generous of heart, ready to share [with others], 19 In this way laying up for themselves [the riches that endure forever as] a good foundation for the future, so that they may grasp that which is life indeed, 1 Timothy 6:18-19.

The happy medium between wealth and poverty is contentment. While doing a couple of mission trips in the mountains of Appalachia, I was stunned by their thankfulness for everything they owned. Despite having next to nothing in their homes, these were the happiest Christians I have ever met. As I have transitioned from a poor teacher at a Christian school to a member of the middle class, life gets more complicated the wealthier you become. Yet, when a generous heart joins a spirit of contentment, faith places life into its proper perspective. Subsequently, rich and poor is merely a state of mind.

by Jay Mankus

I Wouldn’t Trade Things For the World

My wife’s oldest living relative is ninety nine.  Up until six years ago, Aunt Peg hosted a Thanksgiving Day celebration at her home in Kewanee, Illinois.  Every other Thanksgiving served as a reunion for the Hanson and Wagner families in southwestern, Illinois.  Days prior to my wedding twenty two years ago, I was introduced to ninety strangers who would soon become relatives.  While at times this was more of an interrogation, I played along trying to remember as many faces and names as I could for our reception.  Marrying into a large extended family can be overwhelming, yet I have grown to appreciate the special personalities within Leanne’s family.

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.

Working for Amazon the past five years hasn’t afforded me the opportunity to travel out to Chicago for this festive event.  Like a prodigal son, I felt compelled to make the effort this year, especially with the passing of Leanne’s father.  Flying out after work one morning, I was able to reconnect with Leanne’s side of the family.  Following a typical Thanksgiving meal, the Hansons usually puts on a talent show aptly named the Hanson Family Theater.  However, this year each attendee was asked to give a thirty second infomercial, a synopsis of their current life.  While I was dreading the idea of fifty people standing up one after another,  I was pleasantly surprised.  Instead of enduring boredom, I appreciated the commonality exhibited by almost everyone.  Faith, family and God is the bond that has kept this tradition alive for half a century.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only,” Matthew 4:10.

As Leanne and I inch closer to the half century mark in age, I had a revelation last night.  Actually, this was more of an insight to where I am in life.  As much as I complain about my current job, I see the hidden blessing of only working four nights a week.  Despite missing out on any type of social life, I have been able to attend nearly all of my kids sporting events.  I have been there to rejoice in victories, comfort after defeat and explain from a coaching perspective why things played out as they did.  My resume isn’t exciting; nor is my income self-sufficient.  Nonetheless, I have embraced my role as a father, raising my children to the best of my ability.  Sure, I have several flaws, imperfections and weaknesses, but I have reached a state of contentment.   I still have bigger dreams and goals that I would like to fulfill, but I wouldn’t trade things for the world.

by Jay Mankus

A Feel Good Story, No Matter What the Outcome

If you are sports fan, then you understand the thrill of victory and agony of defeat.  However, some cities tend to be tough luck losers, as if a curse is preventing their team from becoming champions.  The nice thing above the 2016 Major League Baseball World Series is that one of two lovable losers will be victorious.  Over the next 5 days, either the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians will break droughts that have lasted a generation or two.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all, 2 Thessalonians 3:16.

On the road to becoming champions, those who finish second are scorned, often labeled as chokers, failures or second losers.  Instead of enjoying the journey like the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League, who is the only team to make it to 4 consecutive Super Bowls, the final score devalue their achievement.  Unfortunately, professional sports is a results driven industry causing feel good stories to be ruined by impatient fans, managers and owners.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope, Romans 15:13.

As I look back at my own athletic career, one of my most memorable moments occurred in the least likely of venues.  This didn’t occur during my brief professional golf career or playing Ultimate Frisbee in college.  Rather, my most gratifying experience came in a competitive men’s softball league.  Similar to the character played by Kevin Costner in For the Love of the Game, I played every out like it was my last game.  Whether you call this playing the game the right way or not, I found contentment no matter what the outcome.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

You’ll Never Know Unless You Try

When I was younger, I thought I was better than I actually was.  I would talk smack, emotionally annoy opponents and wouldn’t back down from a confrontation.  Over time I have mellowed, learned the importance of humility and found contentment in my retirement from sports.  Yet, I’m thankful that I wasn’t afraid to fail as a professional golfer.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

As I step away from competition, my son James faces a similar dilemma.  Despite being a state champion pole vaulter and 3 time all conference golfer, playing division one sports in college is a whole new ball game.  Thus, he has to decide do I risk embarrassment, humiliation or do I play it safe by avoiding disappointment?  My message to him is you’ll never know unless you try.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me, Philippians 3:12.

In my first golf mini-tour event, I shot 48 on the front nine, shaking so badly it was hard to swing a club.  I could have hung my head, quit or withdrawn from this competition.  Yet, I battled, birdieing the 10th, finding my rhythm on the back nine.  I never made any money nor did I reach the P.G.A. tour, but I walked away from this game knowing I did everything in my power to succeed.  Thus, whether you are my son, a friend or a stranger I meet along the road called life, you’ll never know your ultimate destiny unless you try by utilizing your God given talents.

by Jay Mankus

 

Pierced with Many Griefs

The term pierce refers to a foreign object which accesses, enters or penetrates someone’s body.  This can be by choice for those who enjoy earrings or nose rings.  Meanwhile, sometimes piercings can occur without your permission, unexpected and without warning.  This is what the apostle Paul refers to as being pierced with many griefs.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs, 1 Timothy 6:10.

If every day is like a box of chocolates without any labels, nobody knows for sure what you are going to bite into and taste.  Therefore, preparations must be made to guard yourself against invisible piercings to your soul.  According to the passage above, contentment is a good place to start.  This should prevent individuals from the love of money which causes people to lose sight of the giver of life.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows, James 1:17.

When you don’t get the results that you want in life, disappointment can be like a blow to the stomach, knocking the wind out of you.  While the unfortunate are often stuck in misery.  The influential, powerful or wealthy tend to purchase the outcome that they want.  Perhaps this is the root of all evil, especially when people attempt to supersede the will of God.  Whatever the apostle Paul means by this verse in the Bible, don’t forget to ask the Lord for strength when the piercing of many griefs come knocking on your door.

by Jay Mankus

Choking the Word Out of Your Faith

One of the assumptions Christians often make is “once saved, always saved,” suggesting salvation can not be lost once you profess faith in Christ, Romans 10:9-10.  However, Jesus provides three exceptions to this rule, real life scenarios that disrupt one’s initial commitment to God.  After the crowds left his presence, Jesus reveals the meaning of the Parable of the Sower to his disciples, exposing how certain things can choke the Word out of someone’s faith.

But the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful, Mark 4:19.

1. The Worries of this life: Beyond food, clothing and shelter, the human mind can race while trying to sleep.  Financial concerns often lead to stress, sucking the joy of one’s life.  Subsequently, the poor begin to think, “if I only had money, then I will truly be happy.”

2. The Deceitfulness of Wealth: You don’t have to venture far into statistics to see how greed can ruin the lives of individuals.  In a Case Study based upon winner’s of the lottery, only a small percentage found true contentment.  Several families were torn apart by selfish expectations, others went bankrupt by burning through their lump sum jackpot and some ended up in prison, corrupted by the love of money.

3. The Desire for Other Things: You don’t have to be rich to lose your way in life.  However, wealth tends to open up doors, leading to opportunities never dreamed of before.  Thus, the need for God and a Savior wane.  In the end, Bibles collect dust, sitting in a drawer for most of one’s life.  If you’re not careful, this gradual process can invade your soul, choking the Word out of your faith.

by Jay Mankus

Inhabitation of Praise

Words such as dwell, live or reside highlight what it means to inhabit a geographical location.  Yet, you can be present in one place and be void of contentment, enthusiasm and joy.  Thus, modern homes often consist of silence, an obvious sign that something is missing or wrong.  Perhaps, this empty space needs to be replaced by an inhabitation of praise.

It doesn’t take a doctor to recognize the gleeful from those swamped by the worries of life.  Whether you’re dining out at a restaurant, shopping at the mall or walking through a park, those inhabited by anger, bitterness and strife stick out like a sore thumb.  The wake left behind by these troubled souls can impact those leaning on the fence, pondering their next move.

The apostle Paul describes an internal battle that persists daily in Galatians 5:16-18.  Natural inclinations persuade individuals to gratify their own sinful desires, to indulge in those things that bring pleasure.  Unfortunately, these feelings last briefly, before fear, guilt and shame take over.  Therefore, to achieve an abundant life, John 10:1o, you must experience a complete transformation, Romans 12:1-2, before an inhabitation of praise becomes a reality.

by Jay Mankus

The Grind of Life

Inside a coffee grinder, beans are crushed, pounded and smashed into submission until the process is complete.  Sometimes circumstances in life performs a similar act on individuals, grinding and pressing people until their energy is sapped.  Drained, exhausted and spent, my joy for living has been misplaced by a sea of despair.

Perhaps anguish is the guilty party, sucking souls of contentment, fun and thanksgiving.  Despite being known as a man after God’s own heart, 1 Samuel 16:7, David wasn’t exempt from this emotional state.  Psalm 31:10 expresses the toll the grind of life takes on the human body.

Lately, my faith has been void of joy, left behind during my healthier days when work was something I took for granted.  If you take James 2:26 literally, you can’t have one without the other.  Thus, joy is a byproduct of faith, a fruit inspired by the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23.  Like the Samaritan woman, I need to go to the well of living water, John 4:10, so that the grind of life doesn’t crumble my faith.  If you’re thirsty for something more in life, absorb the words of Jesus in John 4:13-14.

by Jay Mankus

Even When It Hurts

Abuse, damage, injuries and pain are synonymous with hurt.  When the course of life turns in your favor, contentment, happiness and joy are expected.  However, as the tables turn, sending unexpected storms and trials, the true nature of a human being is unveiled.  In the heat of the moment, how will you respond to adversity?  One of the strangest stories of the Bible’s highlights this point, doing what’s even when it hurt.

Jephthah was a mighty warrior, following in the footsteps of Gideon, Judges 11:1.  Jephthah was moved by the Spirit of God prior to a battle with the Ammonites, prompted to make a vow to the Lord.  According to Judges 11:30-31, Jephthah promised to sacrifice the first living creature he came across on his way back home.  Perhaps speaking before thinking things through, this victorious leader didn’t see a soul until his one and only daughter came out to greet him.  Yes, this passage seems like a scene from Forrest Gump, “stupid is as stupid does,” Judges 11:34-37.  Nonetheless, this is one of those head scratching verses of the Bible that illustrates keeping your promises, even when it hurts.

The story of Jephthah lives on today as a painful reminder for those make vows without contemplating the price to be paid.  David likely eludes to Jephthah in Psalm 15:4, emphasizing the importance of doing what you say.  Solomon also appears to be moved by this principle, adding the thought process one should go through before making any vows, Ecclesiastes 5:4-6.  In an age where many children have lost faith in their parents, letting them down time after time, make sure you keep your word even when it hurts.

by Jay Mankus

Learning to Celebrate the Present

 The spirit of envy has a way of convincing individuals that their life doesn’t measure up to others.  When compared to this co-worker, that neighbor and everyone’s favorite relative, your life disappoints, leaving depression which hovers over the human soul.  Instead of finding contentment in the life you are living, jealousy urges people to turn their eyes toward the other side of the fence where the grass always seems greener.

 

Yesterday, I attended a wedding of a friend I had done some work for in the past year.  Since I had to work my current job leading up to the afternoon ceremony, I didn’t have any expectations.  Rather, I came with an open mind, free from any preconceived judgments or stereotypes.  I was there to simply support my friend and wife to be.  As a result, my heart was fertile, ready to receive the message of the pastor.

Before the exchange of vows,  a 5 minute sermonette explained why this couple stood at the altar.  Entitled A Witness to Christian Marriage, these words were profound, convicting me of the life I had been living.  Over the last 3 years, I have glorified my past, bypassed the present and hoped for a brighter future.  In the malaise of my unemployment, I neglected to celebrate the present.  Thanks to this amazing invocation, God has inspired me to be thankful for my past, embrace the future and learn to celebrate the here and now of life!

by Jay Mankus

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