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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

A Measurement for Correction

In this age of analytics, there is always a group of individuals who are crunching numbers to measure how to succeed in the future. This drive to win by outwitting others has taken the human element out of sports. Rather than rely on feel or improvising, owners think that they create a model for success. Yet, at some point human beings fail and discipline is exercised to correct these mistakes and shortcomings.

He who spares his rod [of discipline] hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines diligently and punishes him early. 25 The [uncompromisingly] righteous eats to his own satisfaction, but the stomach of the wicked is in want, Proverbs 13:24-25.

King Solomon writes about a rod of correction. This form of discipline is similar to spanking to steer children in the right direction. Yet, Solomon realized that discipline wasn’t embraced by all of his children. Rather than wanting to be trained, the defiant chose disobedience and rebellion. Like the prodigal son in Luke 15, some people have to learn the hard way before coming to their senses.

For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes, Hebrews 12:6.

Modern discipline techniques have moved away from physical altercations. Instead time outs rely on isolation to force children to think about what they just did. Unfortunately, this style doesn’t work for every personality. Whatever form a coach, parent or teacher chooses must be done in a spirit of love. The ideal measurement for correction points young people toward the path of righteousness, Matthew 7:13-14.

by Jay Mankus

Planting for the Future

A recent Progressive Insurance Ad Campaign uses Dr. Rick to help customers attempt to un-become like their parents. Somewhere in all of our childhoods, parents and or guardians have ingrained within you certain habits. Subsequently, the things your parents did with you like fishing and gardening are passed on to share with your own children. For me, it’s planting my own garden.

He who observes the wind [and waits for all conditions to be favorable] will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you know not what is the way of the wind, or how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a pregnant woman, even so you know not the work of God, Who does all, Ecclesiastes 11:4-5.

Since I don’t like as many fruits and vegetables as my parents, I usually limit my garden to basil, peas, peppers, and tomatoes. One year I pre-planted several seeds in a greenhouse kit that I received for Christmas. Unfortunately, one cold spring wind damaged and destroyed everything that I worked on for months. I learned a valuable lesson this night about planting for the future.

In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hands, for you know not which shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether both alike will be good, Ecclesiastes 11:6.

Based upon today’s passage, King Solomon understood the highs and lows of gardening. Some years certain plants keep giving over and over again. Yet, when the soil, timing and temperature is off, the time you invested yields absolutely nothing. This spring will be my last garden in Delaware before I move to South Carolina in the summer of 2022. When that day arrives, it will be another learning process as I plant for the future in a warmer climate.

by Jay Mankus

Redefining Greatness in the Eyes of Heaven

The saying “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder” is attributed to Margaret Hungerford. Using the pen name “the Duchess,” Margaret wrote this expression in one of her Irish proverbs. During his lifetime, King Solomon created over 1000 songs and 3000 proverbs. The purpose of these old wise sayings was to develop a spiritual mindset. Without some sort of transformation, human beings aren’t able to comprehend what’s great in God’s eyes.

But this is not to be so with you; on the contrary, let him who is the greatest among you become like the youngest, and him who is the chief and leader like one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, the one who reclines at table (the master), or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am in your midst as One Who serves. 28 And you are those who have remained [throughout] and persevered with Me in My trials; Luke 22:26-28.

Using a sports analogy, talk shows weekly debate who is the G.O,A.T? Whether it’s a cable or radio program, there is something about ascertaining the greatest of all time. Various opinions collide just like the disciples who wanted to prove to Jesus that they were better than everyone else in the room. This sets the stage for Jesus to quickly shift gears from an earthly perspective toward heaven. While God has great things prepared in advance for every believer, Philippians 1:6, the ultimate goal is serving others.

But this is not to be so among you; instead, whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant, 44 And whoever wishes to be most important and first in rank among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to have service rendered to Him, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for ([y]instead of) many, Mark 10:43-45.

One thing that makes leaders stand out are those individuals who just don’t say the right thing, but back up their words with action. As Jesus was about to lay down his life on a cross, He likely saw his life flash before his eyes. Similar to flashbacks in a movie, Jesus is reclining at a table with his friends for the last time as a human being. Adrenaline and emotions were likely flowing as they departed this upper room singing hymns. Following Jesus’ resurrection, the first breakfast in John 21:8-11 gave Jesus the opportunity to fully redefine greatness in the eyes of heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Waiting for the Right Time and Place

Timing in life can be extremely important. If you try to force something unnaturally like Sarah’s advice to Abraham to try to have a child through her maid servant Hagar, the consequences can last a lifetime or longer, Genesis 16:1-16. Meanwhile, King Solomon suggests that there is a time and place for everything, Ecclesiastes 3:1-10. This is followed up by the statement that God makes everything beautiful in His time, Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Again Jesus went into a synagogue, and a man was there who had one withered hand [[a]as the result of accident or disease]. And [the Pharisees] kept watching Jesus [closely] to see whether He would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might get a charge to bring against Him [[b]formally], Mark 1:1-2.

From a Jewish tradition perspective, the Sabbath was designed for worshiping God and resting. Yet, when the Son of God was sent to earth to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10, Jesus’ time on earth was limited to 33 years. Therefore, when Jesus saw an opportunity to heal or help a needy person, it didn’t matter to Him what day it was. During a worship service in a synagogue, Jesus notices a man with a withered hand. This creates a dilemma for Jesus: to heal or not to heal on the Sabbath?

And He said to the man who had the withered hand, Get up [and stand here] in the midst. And He said to them, Is it lawful and right on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to take it? But they kept silence. And He glanced around at them with vexation and anger, grieved at the hardening of their hearts, and said to the man, Hold out your hand. He held it out, and his hand was [completely] restored, Mark 1:3-5.

If this was a Sunday through Friday, Jesus would have immediately reached out to this man. Yet, to show respect to his elders, Jesus enters into a theological discussion with the Pharisees that were present. When these religious leaders failed to answer his question, the timing wasn’t ideal. Nonetheless, Jesus wasn’t willing to wait another day to heal this man. To fail to act would have been a sin of omission. Subsequently, Jesus chose good over evil, a lesson he taught his earthly brother in James 4:17. Waiting for the right time and place may relate to certain things in life, but serving the Lord should never be put on hold.

by Jay Mankus

Relying on God in Seasons of Darkness and Pain

If you want to collect advice from the Bible to help you overcome a dire situation, King Solomon is a great place to start. During his lifetime, people came from all over the world to hear the wisdom of Solomon. In the passage below, Solomon shares about the reality of life. The longer you live, you will encounter the various seasons described by King Solomon. Yet, it’s one of Jesus’ earthly brothers who reveals the secret to overcoming seasons of darkness and pain.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted, A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up, A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, Ecclesiastes 3:1-5.

If there is a time and place for every season, perhaps every day is merely part of the process that will mold and shape you into the person you will become. Jesus’ brother suggests that everyone struggles with some sort of immaturity. In order to reach what Abraham Harold Maslow refers to as self realization, certain needs must be met before you can move on to the next stage in life. Instead of running away, you must learn to face, endure and go through the storms of life.

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

As dark clouds close in and surround you, it will be hard to see or make any sense of this latest situation. Yet, if you want to fully develop as an adult, you need to begin relying on an invisible God in seasons of darkness and pain. Like a veteran who has been there, done that, life is about living and learning from the good and bad. When you stumble and fall, dust yourself off and get back in the game called life. If you can reach a point where you consider any trial a pure joy, you will start relying on God in times of darkness.

by Jay Mankus

The Catch and Release Approach to Parenting

Catch and release fishing can be traced back to the United Kingdom. As fishermen began to notice that target species were dwindling in heavily fished waters, the government instituted catch and release as a way preserve these fish for future generations. Meanwhile, I recently heard a sermon comparing catch and release to parenting. This analogy was based upon catching your children in acts of disobedience, using discipline to expose this error and release them back into the world.

Thorns and snares are in the way of the obstinate and willful; he who guards himself will be far from them. Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:5-6.

Sometimes individuals who possess godly wisdom doesn’t translate into becoming a good parent. Such is the case of King Solomon who knew exactly what to do, but struggled when it came to following through. Perhaps, this was a byproduct of Solomon’s weakness for the opposite sex. One wife wasn’t enough for this king. Solomon kept adding women until he accumulated 700 wives and 300 concubines. As his children from each lover continued to pile up, Solomon lost his way as a parent, unable to control all of his children.

Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4.

As my youngest child begins her final year of high school, my wife Leanne and I are close to an empty nest. Over the past 24 years, we’ve each had our fair share of catching and training our two boys and one girl to do what is right in God’s eyes. Through the past two decades, I haven’t always been the greatest role model, especially in my early years as a parent. Yet, I’ve enjoyed this spiritual fishing journey as it draws to an end. As the time ticks away, all you can do is enjoy each day before we release our daughter Lydia into this world.

by Jay Mankus

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

In the summer of 1994, the world was introduced to Forrest Gump. This unlikely hero played by Tom Hanks follows the advice and wisdom of his mother throughout this film. Expressions known as Gump-isms simplify life similar to the parables of Jesus. While sitting on a bench waiting for his bus to arrive, Forrest says “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” Or while addressing his drill sergeant, Gump replies “stupid is as stupid does sir.”

He who heeds instruction and correction is [not only himself] in the way of life [but also] is a way of life for others. And he who neglects or refuses reproof [not only himself] goes astray [but also] causes to err and is a path toward ruin for others, Proverbs 10:17.

While Forrest is credited for coining this phrase, a biblical author hints about this in the book of Proverbs. Stupid is used 36 times in the Bible. Several of these are written by King Solomon who is trying the pass on his wisdom to his children. In the passage above, Solomon compares stupidity with stubbornness. If someone is trying to help you by revealing an error, flaw or imperfection, it’s in your best interest to listen and adjust what you’re doing wrong.

Whoever loves instruction and correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is like a brute beast, stupid and indiscriminating, Proverbs 12:1.

Unfortunately, if the timing of a correction, rebuke or reproof catches you off guard, a defensive spirit may cause you to disregard this information. Using the modern saying “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different outcome” is the epitome of stupid. Unless individuals develop a teachable spirit, stupidity becomes a self fulfilled prophecy by not learning from past mistakes. May this blog help you to break free from a stubborn spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Seeking out What is Right

Before the creation and evolution of the internet, students went to the library to find the right answer. After going through the card catalog, I usually went to a librarian to expedite my search for the book with the answer to my question. As I got older, I was introduced to Cliff. If time was running out before a due assignment, Cliff Notes was a reliable source until one of my teachers caught on to the short cut that many of us were taking to find out what we needed to know.

These six things the Lord hates, indeed, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look [the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others], a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. 18 A heart that manufactures wicked thoughts and plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who breathes out lies [even under oath], and he who sows discord among his brethren, Proverbs 6:16-19.

From a Biblical Worldview, the Bible is the place to seek out what is right. According to one first century author, the Bible is living and active, able to penetrate souls, Hebrews 4:12. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul refers to God’s Word as the source for correcting, rebuking and teaching individuals what is right, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. A first century church developed a practice for testing new philosophies by examining them with the Old Testament, Acts 17:11-12.

Lying lips are extremely disgusting and hateful to the Lord, but they who deal faithfully are His delight. 23 A prudent man is reluctant to display his knowledge, but the heart of [self-confident] fools proclaims their folly, Proverbs 12:22-23.

King Solomon is much more direct in the passages above. Before you fully understand what is good and right, you need to know what God detests. If any act falls under one of these 7 categories, the Lord wants any of his followers to flee from these behaviors. One of Jesus’ earthly brothers called first century believers to draw near to God while resisting temptation, James 4:7. In his final remarks in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides a blueprint in Matthew 7:7-8 for seeking out what is right.

by Jay Mankus

Understanding the Seasons of Change

According to Genesis 2:4-6, the earth’s atmosphere was initially like an open canopy. According to Moses, underground springs bubbled up from beneath the surface to water the earth. Prior to the flood, there was only one season with a tropical climate similar to a greenhouse effect. Before the heavens opened up to bring rain for the first time, the springs of the earth burst forth, Genesis 7:11. This passage suggests some sort of enormous volcanic eruption like the super volcano in Yellowstone National Park. As massive clouds of volcanic ash blocked out the sun, the first age began, setting in motion the four seasons that exist today.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted, A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up,A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, Ecclesiastes 3:1-4.

King Solomon provides a famous analogy about seasons of change in the passage above. Just as winter gives way to spring, spring introduces summer before summer fades to fall, the cycle is completed by a return to winter. Solomon refers to specific events that take place every year and throughout your life. Ecclesiastes 3:11 suggests that there is a time and place for everything. According to Solomon, God makes everything beautiful in His time as healing allows broken souls to mend and recover. Yet, for anyone undergoing an extremely difficult period in their life, understanding the seasons of change takes time.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:1-2.

If discovering God’s will for your life can take a couple of decades, discerning the seasons of change involves deep thought and reflection. You may want to pursue a specific career or dream, but when failure causes you to change course, figuring out where to go next takes time. I still remember when I felt God calling me to become a golf professional, then a youth pastor followed by a Bible teacher and golf coach. Each time I thought, surely this is God’s will for my life until the seasons of change left me unemployed. One New Testament author gives great advice for understanding the seasons of change in Hebrews 12:1. If you treat life like a marathon, you have to push through the pain to run with perseverance so when the seasons do change, you’ll be ready to adjust and move on.

by Jay Mankus

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