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Humble Beginnings

King Solomon was the first to state what many people tend to think following an epic collapse or fall from grace in Proverbs 16:18. Pride does call before the fall and results in a reboot or as the Bible suggests a humble beginning. No one likes to start over. Whether this refers to a job, life or video game, being forced to turn the clocks back and start from scratch can be deflating. Yet, humility puts life into its proper perspective.

Let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his elevation [as a Christian, called to the true riches and to be an heir of God], 10 And the rich [person ought to glory] in being humbled [by being shown his human frailty], because like the flower of the grass he will pass away, James 1:9-10.

One Old Testament prophet writes about the nature of death in Isaiah 40:8. Each spring flowers bloom, grass grows and trees become covered by leaves. Unfortunately, by the end of fall, lawns become dormant, leaves fall to the earth and flowers disappear for the year until this cycle repeats itself annually. If you own a house or maintain a property, keeping up weekly maintenance can lead to humble beginnings.

For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled, bewildered]. I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe [[b]which my moral instinct condemns]. 16 Now if I do [habitually] what is contrary to my desire, [that means that] I acknowledge and agree that the Law is good (morally excellent) and that I take sides with it. 17 However, it is no longer I who do the deed, but the sin [principle] which is at home in me and has possession of me, Romans 7:15-17.

Yet, beneath the surface of every human being, there lies an internal battle that never ends. The apostle Paul writes about this wrestling match in the passage above. Whenever you discover that you’ve become a hypocrite, doing the exact opposite that you want, conviction, guilt and humility will follow. In this age of mental health awareness, your own sinful nature is often the source of your problems. Therefore, the next time you mess up, use this humble beginning as a teachable moment to rise from the ashes of despair.

by Jay Mankus

Changing the Way You See Life

In my adolescence, I was a shallow person. Beside being forced to attend a local Boy Scout troop, I lived and died sports. I even broke up with my high school sweetheart to pursue a state championship. Despite my ambitious attempts to win Concord at least one state title in my four years there, second place was the best that I could do. Rather than enjoy the chance to compete, I let the final result ruin my love for sports.

If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God, Colossians 3:1-3.

While I made my initial confession to follow Jesus in high school, I continued to live according to my sinful nature. My faith was nothing more than a feeling, following God when it was convenient to do so. Subsequently, I struggled with depression throughout high school and into my first year of college. During a weekend at James Madison University, I was introduced to the concept of making Jesus the Lord of your life. Making this decision forever changed the way that I see life.

And the grace (unmerited favor and blessing) of our Lord [actually] flowed out superabundantly and beyond measure for me, accompanied by faith and love that are [to be realized] in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is sure and true and worthy of full and universal acceptance, that Christ Jesus (the Messiah) came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost, 1 Timothy 1:14-15.

For the first 18 years of my life, I was a selfish athlete who only cared about me, myself and I. I was a cocky athlete who believed that I was better than I was. Yet, when I read the statement made by the apostle Paul in the passage above, I came face to face with humility. Despite all the miracles performed and lives he help transformed, Paul considered himself the greatest sinner of all. This one confession taught me a vital lesson, the closer you draw near to Jesus and yield control over to him, the more your sins are unveiled. May the Word of God and prayer help change the way you see life like it did for me.

by Jay Mankus

Living a Mixed Message

While believing in yourself is an important quality to possess, when mixed with superficial wisdom, people tend to change. According to the apostle Paul, a spirit of justification and rationalization often enter human beings, altering their personality. Paul compares this subtle change to a wild animal, unspiritual in nature. If Christians are oblivious to their new attitude, it won’t be long before people of faith begin living out a mixed message.

Who is there among you who is wise and intelligent? Then let him by his noble living show forth his [good] works with the [unobtrusive] humility [which is the proper attribute] of true wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry, selfish ambition) in your hearts, do not pride yourselves on it and thus be in defiance of and false to the Truth, James 3:13-14.

When unobtrusive humility is absent, true wisdom is blocked from unveiling the error of your way. If this trend continues, the door is ajar for the sins of the flesh to enter your life, Galatians 5:18-21. According to the apostle Paul, when you’re not guided by the Holy Spirit, Christians begin to live and send a confusing message. If what you believe isn’t backed up with fruits of the Spirit, faith begins to fall apart and decay.

This [superficial] wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual (animal), even devilish (demoniacal). 16 For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices, James 3:15-16.

The passage above reveals byproducts of a wayward faith. A spirit envy and jealousy led to the downfall of Cain, unable to let go of the root of bitterness and resentment within his heart, Genesis 4:6-9. If you don’t get your way, a spirit of complaining, criticizing and condemning has a tendency to take over. If you want to remove this rebellious nature, pour out your heart to God, James 5:16 so that healing and restoration can begin.

by Jay Mankus

The Ministry of Reconciliation

The ministry of reconciliation dates back to Genesis 3:6-8. After committing original sin, Adam and Eve broke their covenant with God, Genesis 2:15-17. Instead of obeying God’s only rule in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge pursued this couple to do what was right in their own eyes. The punishment for their disobedience was expulsion, Genesis 3:22-24.

But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him], 2 Corinthians 5:18.

In one of 4 letters written to the church at Corinth (only 2 are in the Bible), the apostle Paul introduces the ministry of reconciliation. Sin has a way of changing your priorities, focusing on earthly pleasures rather than eternal treasures. Subsequently, we all go astray, wandering off like a prodigal child until you begin to become home sick. Repentance serves as a U-Turn, fleeing sin by turning around to make peace with God.

Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working], James 5:16.

The earthly brother of Jesus highlights what modern reconciliation resembles. As humility leads troubled souls toward confession, a foundation for revival is laid out for others to follow. When souls are healed and restored, there is an inner desire to help others receive what you have experienced. While the 2020 election will cause many to harbor bitterness in their hearts, may the ministry of reconciliation turns lives around to unite as one.

by Jay Mankus

Rebounding Like a Boomerang

The oldest surviving Australian boomerangs come from a cache found in a peat bog in the Wyrie Swamp of South Australia. Boomerangs date back several thousand years to some of the earliest Aboriginal tribes of Australia. Boomerangs had several initial uses such as hunting weapons, percussive musical instruments, fire-starters and decoys for hunting waterfowl. When thrown with a high spin, the boomerang flies in a curved manner rather than in a straight line. When thrown correctly, boomerangs return to its starting point.

And David says, Let their table (their feasting, banqueting) become a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a just retribution [rebounding like a boomerang upon them]; Romans 11:9.

King David suggests that God allows individuals to stumble and fail. Whenever you experience failure, there are consequences. For example, if you reap what you sow, seeds of doubt, envy or hatred can boomerang back upon you. This is the retribution referred to in the passage above. Addiction, bad habits and poor choices can leave long lasting effects. Yet, humility opens the door for repentance. When individuals learn from their errors, mistakes and sin, faith can rebound like a boomerang.

For he who sows to his own flesh (lower nature, sensuality) will from the flesh reap decay and ruin and destruction, but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint, Galatians 6:8-9.

Perhaps, this explains why the apostle Paul urges believers against giving up. Although your life may be currently falling apart, starting to sow spiritual seeds can turn your life around. Instead of giving into hopelessness, God is not done with you yet. To those who persevere, rising from the ashes of despair is possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. Do not lost heart as Spring is right around the corner. May this blog inspire you to rebound like a boomerang. With God, anything is possible, even a faith in desperate need of renewal and revival.

by Jay Mankus

Another Reason to Give God the Glory

When a college professor repeats an event, fact or theory, this will likely be on the next test.  If a mentor shares the same advice more than once, you might want to listen.  When a pastor recalls an important message preached by Jesus, putting this into practice can be life altering.  Yet, the world is filled with voices telling you to do this or that.  How you respond will influence your fate on earth.

On an appointed day Herod dressed himself in his royal robes, sat on his throne (tribunal, rostrum) and began delivering a speech to the people. 22 The assembled people kept shouting, “It is the voice of a god and not of a man!” – Acts 12:21-22

Jesus’ earthly brother learned a valuable lesson, God’s ways are different from the world, James 4:6.  Humility brings you closer to God rather than taking credit for your own accomplishments.  Jesus warned his followers about pride, quoting the sayings of Solomon, “pride comes before the fall.”  The more you crave and hunger attention, the further you drift away from God.  The attached passage provides individuals with another reason to give God the glory.

And at once an angel of the Lord struck him down because he did not give God the glory [and instead permitted himself to be worshiped], and he was eaten by worms and died [five days later], Acts 12:23.

According to Acts 12, Herod Agrippa I became full of himself.  During a political speech, the crowd was moved.  The more Herod spoke, listeners were in awe, suggesting this king was a god, not a man.  Instead of setting the record straight, Herod reveled in these compliments.  Refusing to embrace humility, an angel of death inflicted Agrippa with a deadly disease as worms ate him from within.  May this warning inspire you to give God the glory.

by Jay Mankus

Responding to Criticism

Censure, denunciation and reproof are examples of criticism. Whenever condemnation comes your way, it’s not pleasant. Some of the accusations made against you may not be credible. Yet, how you respond to criticism will dictate how others will react to you.

A man’s pride and sense of self-importance will bring him down, but he who has a humble spirit will obtain honor, Proverbs 29:23.

After a series of severe tribulations, three of Job’s friends jumped to the same conclusion. Using Old Testament logic, these men associated bad things as a curse from God. In their eyes, Job must have done something wrong to have all of his children die and become inflicted with boils. The book of Job is filled with criticism followed by Job’s response.

Whoever is partner with a thief hates his own life; He hears the curse [when swearing an oath to testify], but discloses nothing [and commits perjury by omission]. The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in and puts his confidence in the Lord will be exalted and safe, Proverbs 29:25.

King Solomon provides advice to individuals facing the hot seat known as criticism. When attacked, human nature relies on pride to defend yourself. Instead of allowing a knee jerk response to come out of your mouth, Solomon encourages individuals to embrace rebukes. Everyone has room for improvement, subtle imperfections that need to be worked out. Thus, the next time you receive critical comments, ask the Lord how these words can be used to benefit you in the future.

by Jay Mankus

From Spiritual Blindness to Humility

Spiritual blindness is a grievous condition experienced by those who do not believe in God, Jesus Christ, and His Word, the Bible. This state is often brought on by a popular view that God is all loving, preventing this spiritual being from sending human beings to hell. Spiritual blindness can also be contracted by the self-righteous. This occurs when religious individuals begin to compare themselves to less spiritual people. This comparison elevates their own self-esteem while lulling souls into a false sense of security.

He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves and were confident that they were righteous [posing outwardly as upright and in right standing with God], and who viewed others with contempt: Luke 18:9.

During the first century, Jesus attempted to expose the spiritual blindness of religious leaders by using a parable.  This analogy compared one outstanding citizen, a Pharisee with a stellar reputation to a tax collector, the most corrupt and dishonest occupations at the time.  Jesus made his point by noticing the prayer habits of these two men.  This so called good guy exalted himself without any acknowledgement, gratitude or praise for the Lord above.  Meanwhile, the social misfit, hated by society, did not feel worthy to look up to heaven.  Rather, this tax collector beat his chest, disgusted by the spiritual condition of his soul.

The Pharisee stood [ostentatiously] and began praying to himself [in a self-righteous way, saying]: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men—swindlers, unjust (dishonest), adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing at a distance, would not even raise his eyes toward heaven, but was striking his chest [in humility and repentance], saying, ‘God, be merciful and gracious to me, the [especially wicked] sinner [that I am]!’– Luke 18:11-13.

Life is full of cycles. phases and transitional periods.  During these ups and downs, God humbles the proud and lifts up the meek.  The hardest part of these emotional experiences is remembering where you came from.  In the darkest days of Job’s trials, this broken man once said, “from ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”  This confession reflects upon God creating Adam out of the dust only to return to the ground following his death.  When human beings recognize the frailty of life, a mist that appears for a while then quickly vanishes, this should move the spiritually blind to humility.  May this painful reality prompt acts of faith to get your life in order this year.

by Jay Mankus

Surviving Your Next Guilt Trip

Guilt is like an invisible lie detector test.  When human beings deny, exaggerate or lie, souls are awakened by pulses inside their body.  This reaction is triggered by consciences, an inner feeling or voice of truth.  The apostle Paul refers to this concept as the invisible qualities of God so that no one is without excuse, Romans 1:18-20.  The dilemma is not if your next guilt trip will arrive, but how will your respond when conviction starts gnawing upon your heart.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness [of sin], we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we [really] walk in the Light [that is, live each and every day in conformity with the precepts of God], as He Himself is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another [He with us, and we with Him], and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin [by erasing the stain of sin, keeping us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations], 1 John 1:6-7.

One of the objectives of the modern progressive movement is to de-emphasize absolutes by elevating personal opinions.  As lies are portrayed as truth by members of the media, gray areas expand resulting in a combination of confusion and rationalization.  If the Bible becomes discredited from endless attacks by atheist groups, future generations will look to other sources for moral guidance.  Perhaps, leaders want to return to the days of Old Testament Judges, where people began to do what was right in their own eyes.

If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose], 1 John 1:8-9.

The spiritual dynamic of guilt seeks to bring about humility.  Depression is a natural emotion created by God to make it painfully obvious that individuals can not follow the ten commandments on their own.  Thus, when guilt trips persuade hearts and minds to admit the error of their way, confession opens the door for hope, Romans 5:2-4.  Responding correctly to guilt, unlike Cain who killed his brother, enables contrite spirits to receive forgiveness, grace and mercy.  May the words of 1 John give you a blueprint for surviving your next guilt trip.

by Jay Mankus

High to Low

If you enjoy watching sporting events, it doesn’t take much for emotions to fluctuate between highs and lows.  Certain games are considered instant classics, known as back and forth affairs with momentum constantly changing.  Last Sunday’s National Football League playoff game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles is a perfect example, leaving most fans on the edge of their seats until the final play.  In the final minute, both teams seemed destined to advance to the next round.  A 43 yard field goal was the difference, at least until a late whistle nullified the game winning kick.  Minutes later the kick that counted was partially blocked, hit the left upright, then the cross bar before bouncing backward in the field of play.  In one of the strangest finishes ever, this game was the epitome of high to low.

Then it happened when Saul turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. 10 When they came to the hill [Gibeah], behold, a group of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came on him mightily, and he prophesied [under divine guidance] among them, 1 Samuel 10:9-10.

Prior to the creation of the earth, an archangel known as Lucifer was one of the highest ranking spiritual entities in heaven.  An Old Testament prophet highlights the beauty of this angel of song in Ezekiel 28.  The best way to encapsulate Lucifer’s appearance is imagine the most magnificent pipe organ in the world, able to hit any note with perfection.  Combine this talent with the most gorgeous gems in the universe, majestic wings and beauty beyond belief.  These qualities formed this amazing angelic being.  Yet, as God the Father revealed his plan for creation, mankind would be elevated to a higher status than angels.  This didn’t sit too well with Lucifer, mulling the details over with other angels.  The seeds of rebellion were sown during these discussions.  Thus, when the Lord asked for Lucifer’s support, Satan refused, kicked out of heaven in an instant, sent from the high as an archangel to a lowly demon on earth.

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” James 4:6.

As a parent, the birth of our three children were some of the greatest days of my life.  In the days that followed, there were many firsts: crawling, talking and walking.  While raising children can be exhausting, the rewards and satisfaction was worth all the hard work, sweat and tears.  Yet, as children grow up, life can become a long emotional roller coaster going from high to low, low to high and back down again.  If you live for the moment, these waves of emotion will wear you out.  Perhaps, this may explain why Jesus wants his followers to live by faith, not by sight.  Sure, even strong believers wrestle with doubt, especially when the lows outnumber the highs.  Nonetheless, failures bring individuals closer to God via humility.  Meanwhile, the cocky are brought down to earth as God opposes the proud.  Thus, as you wait for the next ride, lean on God’s grace when you fall so you can appreciate the journey back up.

by Jay Mankus

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