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The Grouch That Spoiled Christmas


As a child, Christmas was my favorite time of the year.  As Christmas Eve drew closer, the more excited I became, wondering what gifts may be waiting for me under the tree.  Somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, life got a lot more complicated.  Now that I am the one in charge of working to help pay for all the presents, this season has lost it’s luster.  After three consecutive weeks of working sixty hours at Amazon, I find myself turning into a new fictional character, the grouch that spoiled Christmas.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” – Matthew 10:38-40

Last night as I was leaving work, I had a flashback of the passage above.  Mary and Martha illustrate the clash of personalities that happen every day in life.  In this story, Martha is the older sister, the responsible one, running around to clean and cook for Jesus, trying to be a hospitable host.  Meanwhile, the baby sister cares more about talking than doing, entertaining Jesus by listening to his daily encounters with his disciples.  In an attempt to be a perfectionist, Martha becomes jealous, grouchy like me.

Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her,” Luke 10:41-42.

Looking back, I never realized how much my parents did to make Christmas special.  I’m sure there were private moments behind closed doors of complaints or frustration, but my mother possessed the characteristics of Mary.  Before I ever heard of Mary and Martha, my mom demonstrated the personality trait God encourages others to emulate.  In a sense, last night I was reenacting this scene from the Bible in real life.  I played the role Martha.  My co-workers illustrated the joy of Mary, savoring the time together.  However, Jesus wasn’t there to scold me.  Rather, the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, “watch out or you will become the grouch that spoiled Christmas.

by Jay Mankus


Entertaining Evil

Captivate, delight and enthrall are words associated with entertaining.  Whenever you have the opportunity to host a party, you want to make it memorable.  In the first century, Jewish families threw wedding receptions that lasted up to a week.  When guests became extremely intoxicated, the premium wine was swapped for a cheap replacement.  Modern readers to an event like this might suggest these people were entertaining evil.

When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”  “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you,” John 2:3-5.

The word reputation refers to what others think about you based upon previous conversations and encounters.  Reputations may not be accurate if you don’t make a good first impression.  Nonetheless. this perception is based upon what you do, how you behave and the words you choose to express.  If a Jewish family ran out of wine at a wedding, this was like committing social suicide, a stain that would tarnish your families’ name for a generation.  Afraid of this outcome, the mother of Jesus and friend of the bride comes up with a plan.  Despite initial thoughts, Jesus honors his mother’s request.

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? – Matthew 9:4

According to Jesus, entertaining evil begins in your heart.  Perhaps, you’re jealous of someone else’s success?   Maybe the thought of someone you don’t like succeeding triggers schemes within your mind?  In the passage above, some Pharisees believed Jesus was on the verge of committing blasphemy.  Judging him quietly without hearing Jesus’ rationale for his words is equivalent to entertaining evil.  The average bystander might suggest, ” wait a minute Jesus, you’re over-reacting, don’t you think you’re taking this a little too far?”  Well, if Lucifer planted a seed of lawlessness within the mind of Eve and that’s all it took to open the door for sin to be conceived, Jesus is right to address this issue.  Therefore, the next time you are quick to judge others, make sure you don’t entertain evil.

by Jay Mankus

Where’s the Meat?

In 1984 the Wendy’s Fast Food Chain introduced one of the most memorable advertising slogans of my time, “where’s the beef?”  Actress Clara Peller receives a small burger on a large bun which sets the stage for this classic line.  This commercial convinced customers for a period of time that you had to go to Wendy’s to enjoy a beefy hamburger.

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil, Hebrews 5:14.

In spiritual houses of worship, there is a similar question asked by hungry souls, “where’s the meat?”  Due to a movement toward entertaining church services, there appears to be more fluff and less detailed teaching.  Thus, many believers are struggling to grow, lacking challenging sermons filled with spiritual meat.

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,” Matthew 9:12.

During a conversation among disciples and Pharisees, Jesus makes an assumption about spiritual growth.  Sooner or later, the spiritually mature must grow up by learning to take care of their own faith.  When you reach this stage in life, you can feed yourself through times of Bible Study, fellowship with other believers and prayer.  As you develop healthy spiritual disciplines, you can find the meat, godly principles, within the Bible daily.

by Jay Mankus


Genuine Spiritual Growth

There is a fine line between learning and teaching.  Sometimes a speaker can be entertaining without conveying any true substance.  Others may communicate a wealth of knowledge, yet do so in a dry and boring manner.  Based upon biblical accounts, genuine spiritual growth occurs when the Holy Spirit moves individuals to preach about the resurrection of Jesus.

You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this, Acts 3:15.

Today, church growth is inflated as crowds flock to the most popular worship center until something more flashy, hip or trendy comes along.  Thus, as one congregation takes on the unhappy from another church, the numbers are like a shadow game, staying the same despite the appearance of growth.  Under pressure to perform, the leaders may compromise, lower their standards or water down their message to keep their critics happy.

But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand, Acts 4:4.

Although there are several good books and resources on the subject of church growth, history reveals 3 essential ingredients which inspired individuals to embrace faith.  First, a commitment to prayer church wide sets the stage for spiritual revival, Acts 2:42.  Second, accountability and fellowship produces intimate relationships, encouraging individuals to make Christianity a lifestyle.  Finally, teaching must be consistent, based upon the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  When a body of believers embraces and practices these principles, the next Willow Creek Community Church will be born.

by Jay Mankus

Why People Don’t Listen


As a former teacher, there were many days I talked to blank stares, bowed heads and confused faces.  Maybe the topic I spoke on was boring, students stayed up too late the previous night or I was tuned out by their minds, not as entertaining as their favorite television stars.  However, one of the main reasons people don’t listen is because deep down inside, they probably don’t believe what you saying applies, will change or impact their lives.


Moses encounters a similar experience within Exodus 6:9-12, confused by Israel’s response to the message God gave him.  Based upon verse 9, the distress of slavery and the wear and tear of beat downs by Egyptian officials took a toll on their hearts.  After approaching a 4th generation of bondage, it appears no one could foresee the miracle God was waiting to perform.

This mentality is alive and well today, made stronger by an I know it all attitude.  If you include opinions, political views and well defined worldviews, breaking down the walls to clear communication is extremely challenging.  This likely explains why Jesus used the phrase “you have ears but don’t hear and eyes but do not hear,” addressing the Pharisees for their stubbornness.  May the Holy Spirit help you conquer this worldwide dilemma, 1 Corinthians 2:9-16, to influence those whom you come in contact with daily.

by Jay Mankus

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