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Tag Archives: encourage

Greatness Starts at the Bottom

Michael J. Fox starred in the 1987 film the Secret to My Success.  Fox plays Brantley Foster, a college graduate who gets laid off shortly after moving to New York City.  The premise of this movie is based upon the American Dream, starting from the very bottom and moving your way up through a company gradually to the top.  Like most college grads today, Fox found himself overqualified for most positions, but underqualified for the high paying positions.  While fictional in nature, Fox uses a worldly approach to get to the top.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” – Matthew 18:1

During a long walk between towns, the disciples lagged well behind Jesus.  At the back of a long caravan, the disciples began a heated debate on who was the greatest disciple.  While the author fail to address the content of this argument, below are a few likely positions that were taken.  Often brash, Peter begins by saying, “well Jesus did proclaim I am the petra, the rock upon which God will build his church on earth.”  John interrupts, “wait a minute, Jesus also said I am the one whom  he loves the most.”  James, brother of John, jumps into the fray “that’s nice boys, but Jesus called me first.”  When the disciples finally caught up, Jesus addresses this issue.

He called a little child and set him before them, and said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 18:2-3.

The passage above is one of two main passages about the being the greatest in heaven.  Mark 9:35-37 builds upon this concept, suggesting that whoever wants to be the greatest must be a servant to all.  One thing you can say about Jesus is he practiced what he preached.  Despite healing and performing miracles daily, Jesus encouraged these people keep quiet, remaining humble throughout his earthly life.  If you combine these passages, there are two traits to consider.  First, maintain the innocence of a child by emulating your heavenly father.  Second, put the needs and wants of others before yourself.  If you want to be great on earth, start today by serving those in your spheres of influence.

by Jay Mankus

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The Seventh Hand

The oldest preserved measuring rod is a copper-alloy bar discovered by the German Assyriologist Eckhard Unger during an excavation of the ancient city of Nippur.  This device is believed to have been used 2650 years before Christ.  According to the Bible, a cubit is the earliest form of measurement.  A cubit is the forearm length from the tip of the middle finger to the bottom of the elbow.  Thus, the hand was an essential body part necessary to complete the most basic measurement.

And these are the measurements of the altar [of burnt offering] in cubits (the cubit being a [long] cubit [the length of a forearm] and a hand width): the base shall be a cubit [long] and a cubit wide, with its border on its edge all around it of a span [in width]. And this shall be the height of the base of the altar, Ezekiel 43:13.

Within the Old Testament, some of the authors introduce the concept of guardian angels.  The Psalmist describes this spiritual being as one who encamps around those who fear God, Psalm 34:7.  In addition, God commands angels to guard you in all of your ways, Psalm 91:11.  This invisible being is like the hand of God watching over your life.  Yet, the Psalmist does include a requirement, fearing God.  The context of this fear is similar to a holy reverence, respecting the Creator of life on earth.  The degree to which you fear the Lord serves as a measuring stick of your faith.

But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future], John 16:13.

Prior to his death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus refers to a Holy Ghost that will be sent after his departure.  New Testament authors refer to this being as a counselor, sent to guide and direct followers of Christ to a complete understanding of truth.  Like another hand to hold, nudge or tap, God uses angels and the Holy Spirit to seek and to save those who are spiritually lost.  Depending upon your current state of mind, may the presence of guardian angels and God’s Spirit encourage you to hold onto the seventh hand, messengers of God, until the storms in life subside.

by Jay Mankus

 

One Down,Two to Go

My oldest son James will be leaving on Saturday to begin his junior year of college.  Yet, as I began to think about his departure, this will likely be his last summer in our home.  Required to do an internship before his senior year, James will likely spend his final summer in Lynchburg, Virginia.  When you consider a seriously relationship with his girl friend Emma, marriage is not out of the realm of possibility.  Thus, as a parent, I guess its one down and two to go.

Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents], Even when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:6.

If anyone could provide insight on the do’s and don’ts on parenting, its Solomon.  A husband of 700 wives and an additional 300 concubines, this former king of Israel was a father to over one thousand children.  Reflecting upon his role as a dad, Solomon uses Proverbs as a guide to help raise godly children.  This Old Testament book urges children to listen to their parents.  The key principle to pass on to daughters and sons is the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with lovingkindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4.

The apostle Paul adds further advice to fathers hoping to raise godly children in the New Testament.  During his visit with members of the church at Ephesus, Paul noticed that some dads were being too tough on their kids.  This observation inspired Paul to encourage parents to avoid exasperating youth.  Instead, Paul reminds future parents to display (TLC) tender, love and care while exercising discipline.  Whether you are a former, current or want to be a parent, apply the principles of the Bible so that children will not depart from God’s will for their life.

by Jay Mankus

Simplifying the Process of Growing Old

When an adult explains a new concept to a child, certain things tend to get lost in translation.  Grown ups may be tempted to use big words, trying to impress an athlete or student.  Instead of simplifying the process, arrogance and pride can get in the way, widening this communication gap.  If an audience of kids become dazed and dumbfounded, its time to seek to a higher power, reflecting upon the story telling skills demonstrated by Jesus.

And looking toward His disciples, He began speaking: “Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are you who are poor [in spirit, those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for the kingdom of God is yours [both now and forever], Luke 6:20.

Jesus began his most famous sermon with a common sense approach, the beatitudes.  Instead of looking down on the less fortunate, Jesus used analogies that everyone could understand.  Thus, Jesus encourages individuals to set goals, attitudes that you want to aspire to be. obtain and possess.  Jesus takes negative terms like hungry, poor and weeping, then applies each to a positive spiritual quality.  These phrases give hope to the hopeless, comfort to the broken and joy to the emotionally numb.

Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are you who hunger now [for righteousness, actively seeking right standing with God], for you will be [completely] satisfied. Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are you who weep now [over your sins and repent], for you will laugh [when the burden of sin is lifted], Luke 6:21.

Jesus simplifies the process of growing old by reminding adults of a child like faith.  Before the innocence of youth is lost, kids possess great ambition, dreaming about the person they want to be when they grow out.  As time passes, thoughts change, influenced by the culture of each generation.  Without striving to achieve some of these beatitudes, the complications of life stunt spiritual growth.  Unless you are refreshed by God’s grace, you may become a grumpy old man, frustrated by what might have been.  Nonetheless, if you want to simplify the process of growing old, call out to Jesus so that you can regain a child like faith.

by Jay Mankus

When All You Know Begins to Fall Apart

After graduating from high school and college, some may use this newly acquired knowledge to look down upon less educated individuals.  Meanwhile, others will immediately apply this wisdom, believing every word graduate assistants and professors divulge.  Unfortunately, many learn the hard way when trusted theories begin to fall apart under the reality called life.  Thus, when all you know begins to fall apart, developing a back up plan is a crucial step toward recovery.

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 Bible is full of advice for anyone who undergoes trying times.  One of Jesus’ disciples offers some tough love in the passage above.  You shouldn’t be surprised by accidents, circumstances or events that occur.  These happenings are merely used by God to challenge, refine and test your faith.  Jesus’ earthly brother encouraged first century Christians to embrace trials, James 1:3-6, considering these as teachable moments to grow and mature as a person.  However, putting this into practice is much easier said than done.

“So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish (stupid) man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great and complete was its fall,” Matthew 7:24-27.

Sometimes people will have their foundation rocked by natural disasters.  Others are forced to cope with disease, illness or viruses that have no known cure, hoping and waiting for a miracle.  These events will either break or make you.  How you respond will dictate your future path.  Thus, when everything you know begins to fall apart, lean on a cornerstone who is reliable, Ephesians 2:20.  If you do, you will find a solid rock to stand upon when everything else get’s washed away.

by Jay Mankus

Active, Lukewarm or Dead?

Animated, bubbly, dynamic, energetic, perky and vigorous are all synonyms which highlight active individuals.  When you came in contact with these lively souls, its possible to feed off of their enthusiasm.  During Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encouraged his followers to add flavor to the lives of people you encounter, Matthew 5:13-16.  When actions and words co-exist, faith rubs off on others, similar to a lamp shining light into the darkness of this world.

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth, Revelation 3:16.

Prior to modern appliances, cooling drinks or adding ice cubes wasn’t an option.  Thus, past civilizations were forced to endure room temperature drinks.  The Bible refers to this as lukewarm.  The context in which this term is applied signifies an inactive faith.  From a spiritual point of view, idle faith is an insult to God, void of salt and light.  Unfortunately, I find myself closer to lukewarm than active.  In fact, in recent weeks I am hovering somewhere between a lukewarm and dying faith.

For just as the [human] body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works [of obedience] is also dead, James 2:26.

When talking about judgment, Jesus uses the expression take the plank out of your own eye before criticizing someone else, Matthew 7:1-5.  One of the members in the audience that day opens up about his own life in the passage above.  Taking a look in the mirror from a spiritual perspective, James looks back at a time in his life when his faith was dead.  Despite being raised by Mary and Joseph, James’ faith was lukewarm at best until the resurrection of Jesus.  I guess we all need a wake up call at some point.  May this blog awaken your soul to activate your faith, fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

When You Come Up One Shot Short

Unlike most sports, golf doesn’t use a running clock with a set number of periods or quarters.  Rather, tournaments consist of a defined number of holes depending upon the degree of competition.  For the past sixteen years I have spent the two days after Memorial Day watching the Delaware High School State Golf Tournament.  My first ten years were spent as a head coach, the last six as a parent and volunteer on the state committee running this event behind the scenes.  Over the past two decades, I’ve seen more heartbreak than jubilation.  One golfer endured 180 shots over 18 holes while a recent senior missed out on qualifying for states by one stroke two years in a row.  In view of this, how do you move on when you come up one shot short?

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light, Colossians 1:11-12.

When I experienced disappointment, failure and setbacks as a teenager, one adult suggested that I go back to the drawing board.  The point of this idiom encourages those who fail to go back to the beginning, hoping to figure out what went wrong and why.  During my final spring at Concord High, my last golf season got off to a miserable start.  After two embarrassing losses, I spent an afternoon playing 36 holes in the rain.  Channeling my anger in a positive manner, I refused to repeat the same stupid mistakes for the rest of the season.  This day served as a turning point, when God gave me a resolve to do whatever it took to reach my full potential.  By the end of the season, I was leading the state tournament after day one and despite fading on the back nine during the final round, a top ten finish resulted in all state honors.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.

Sometimes, individuals are given back stage access, able to interact with celebrities and stars.  Such was the case for the earthly brother of Jesus who never believed until the resurrection.  The words from the passage above were inspired by the attitude demonstrated by Jesus throughout his life.  Jesus didn’t dwell over bad breaks, criticism or results that didn’t meet his own expectations.  Rather, Jesus remained steadfast despite coming up just short from time to time.  Therefore, when you come up one shot short in life, ask the Holy Spirit for the resolve to press on until dreams, goals or visions are fulfilled.

by Jay Mankus

 

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