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How Jealousy Can Destroy a Church

The apostle Paul’s initial visit to Thessalonica can be described as the tale of two Sundays.  As a former Jewish zealot, Paul visited the local synagogue and consecutive Sabbaths.  According to Luke, a first century doctor and historian, Paul engaged in a series of discussions and friendly debates.  Paul used the Scriptures to persuade these Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.  By the third Sabbath, some Jews, a large number of God fearing Greeks and many leading women placed that faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.

And Paul entered the synagogue, as was his custom, and for three Sabbaths he engaged in discussion and friendly debate with them from the Scriptures, explaining and pointing out [scriptural evidence] that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I am proclaiming to you, is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed),” Acts 17:2-4.

This rejection of Judaism didn’t sit well with a majority of the synagogue leaders.  Instead of continuing their friendly debate, unbelieving Jews became filled with jealousy.  Envious spirits provoked synagogue leaders to become hostile toward God, Romans 8:5-8.  The sinful nature influenced synagogue leaders to go down a slippery slope, combing Thessalonica for lowlifes and thugs to intimidate Paul and Silas.  This group stirred up trouble, forming a mob and throwing this city into an uproar, surrounding the house of Jason like a modern public protest.  This is an example of how jealousy can destroy a church.

And some of them were persuaded to believe and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and many of the leading women. But the [unbelieving] Jews became jealous, and taking along some thugs from [the lowlifes in] the market place, they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and then attacking Jason’s house tried to bring Paul and Silas out to the people. But when they failed to find them, they dragged Jason and some brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too; and Jason has welcomed them [into his house and protected them]! And they all are saying things contrary to the decrees of Caesar, [actually] claiming that there is another king, Jesus.” They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things, Acts 17:4-8.

Jealousy has a long and undesirable past that is documented in the Bible.  Jealousy led Cain, the first human being born on earth, to kill his younger brother.  Jealousy persuaded King Saul to make several attempts on the life of David his predecessor.  Envy isn’t limited to the Bible as acts of the sinful nature prey on souls who deviate, rebel or stray from God.  As someone who spent 7 years as an elder in a church, it only takes one influential leader on a board to follow in the footsteps of this synagogue in Thessalonica.  To prevent a future event from escalating, Paul writes two letters to set high standards for church leaders.  Titus 3:6-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 detail qualifications to guard against jealousy from destroying another church.

by Jay Mankus

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Recognizing Distractions Early Before It’s Too Late

There is a strange phenomena that occurs when individuals are about to draw close to God.  The apostle Paul points to the spiritual realm to explain distractions, interruptions and unexplained events, Ephesians 6:12.  According to Paul, the devil’s strategy includes three waves.  The first enables certain rulers to rise to power such as judges, kings and political leaders.  This wave is reinforced by worldly forces, areas, regions and territories under demonic oppression where evil is allowed to reign.  Finally, there are spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly realm fueled by demons, minions and strongmen to execute Satan’s schemes on earth.

It happened that as we were on our way to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination [that is, a demonic spirit claiming to foretell the future and discover hidden knowledge], and she brought her owners a good profit by fortune-telling. 17 She followed after Paul and us and kept screaming and shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They are proclaiming to you the way of salvation!” – Acts 16:16-17

Using this criteria, Luke details an example from Paul’s ministry while visiting Philippi.  While on his way to participate in a prayer and worship service, a slave girl was sent to distract Paul.  Apparently, a demonic spirit recognized that Paul’s missionary team were servants of the most high God.  Just as spirits hounded Jesus, this revealed truth caused a slave girl to interrupt Paul’s message of salvation to Europe for several days, regularly screaming and shouting as Paul tried to preach.  According to Luke, this gradually wore Paul down, annoyed by this constant distraction.  When Paul rebuked this spirit, the owners of this slave girl complained to the chief magistrates, convincing law enforcement to imprison Paul and Silas.

She continued doing this for several days. Then Paul, being greatly annoyed and worn out, turned and said to the spirit [inside her], “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ [as His representative] to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment, Acts 16:18.

While in prison, Paul and Silas could have been distracted by anger, bitterness and injustice.  Yet, prayers of the saints strengthened these men, turning this setback into a golden opportunity.  How you may ask?  Well, Paul and Silas transformed their prison cell into a worship service.  As Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns, a great earthquake rocked Philippi.  When this quake opened the doors to each cell, some would have taken this as a sign from God to escape.  However, Paul demonstrated amazing leadership, convincing all the prisoners to stay put; saving the life of the jailor who was about to kill himself, the fate he would have faced if any prisoner escaped.  These are the blessings that await those who recognize spiritual distractions early before it’s too late..

by Jay Mankus

What Are You Waiting For?

While attending a leadership trade school six months after graduating from the University of Delaware, I was challenged to expand my comfort zone.  Following eight hours in a classroom setting, nightly assignments forced me to go to local malls to develop my conversational skills by talking to complete strangers.  One of the more meaningful projects was creating a 25 year mission statement.  This involved career, ministry and personal goals that I wanted to accomplish before turning fifty.  As I approach the half century mark next month, I feel like time has passed me by.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, Jeremiah 29:11.

After getting married in 1995, my wife Leanne and I were active participants in youth ministry at a church in Bolingbrook, Illinois.  A mutual goal was to volunteer at a local church when our three children were teenagers.  Although I taught high school for a decade, my oldest son was in eighth grade my final year teaching.  For one reason or another, I find myself waiting for the perfect time which has now come and gone.  Subsequently, my oldest so James is married, Daniel is a senior in high school and Lydia a sophomore.  This week I heard God’s still small voice whisper, “what are you waiting for?”

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that,” James 4:13-15.

My daughter attended a youth group last year which she enjoyed.  This church provides a youth oriented church service on Friday night, but busy Spring and Summer schedules has kept our family from investing time there.  Just as the Holy Spirit convicted me earlier in the week, common sense is now pleading me with “what are you still waiting for?”  Perhaps, future blogs will share a proactive approach to God’s calling.  Yet, for now all I can say is that I have failed to invest my time wisely.  Therefore, it’s time to act now before our home becomes an empty nest.

by Jay Mankus

You Can’t Expect Others to Follow If You’re Not Leading the Way

During a trade school I attended after college, I was introduced to several leadership principles. From time to time, I will go back to examine and review notes from one of two three ring binders. At the time of this course, the curriculum and material was cutting edge, filled with articles, case studies and insight from successful leaders throughout the world. One of the sayings I still recall is “the enthusiasm of a leader will never exceed that of its group.”

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death, 1 John 3:14.

Essentially, this refers to the concept that you can’t expect others to follow if you’re not leading the way. As a parent, the Bible provides several instructions on how to become the spiritual leader of your house. The apostle Paul urges husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Meanwhile, King Solomon uses Proverbs to help fathers instill in their children godly principles to cling to throughout life. However, when I am not demonstrating love, emulating biblical standards and walking in integrity, I am sending a mixed message.

Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 1 Peter 1:23.

At this point in my life, I have failed miserably at being a godly leader. The hardest part of my current predicament is that if I don’t get my own life/house in order, I’m just another useless hypocrite. When you abide in death, love is impossible to accomplish. Thus, I find myself in need of a spiritual boost, an awakening only available through what Peter calls the imperishable seed. Only when I began to allow God’s Word, the Bible to abide and dwell within me, can I lead my family in the manner that God desires.

by Jay Mankus

When You Put God First

Leadership refers to being in the position to guide a group of people.  Leadership roles vary from a boss, captain, head, principle or superior.  While some people are born with leadership skills, most individuals learn from a mentor.  This process often begins as a teenager, continuing throughout life as you take the baton before its your turn to handoff to someone else.  During the exodus out of Egypt, Joshua was waiting in the wings until replacing Moses as the leader of Israel.

He said, “No; rather I have come now as captain of the army of the Lord.” Then Joshua fell with his face toward the earth and bowed down, and said to him, “What does my lord have to say to his servant?” – Joshua 5:14

The goal at hand in these days was to enter God’s promised land.  The obstacle, facing a land of giants protected by a mighty wall surrounding Jericho.  As captain of the army of the Lord, Joshua doesn’t exhibit an earthly style of leadership.  Rather, Joshua is overwhelmed by the presence of God, falling prostrate to the ground, bowing on his knees.  Perhaps, Joshua is uncertain, not sure what to do.  Thus, Joshua seeks God’s counsel, eagerly waiting for direction.

The captain of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, because the place where you are standing is holy (set apart to the Lord).” And Joshua did so, Joshua 5:15.

In the passage above, Joshua is merely modeling what Moses taught him.  Back in Exodus 3, an angel of the Lord first appeared to Moses in a burning bush.  Just Moses took off his sandals, obedient to the Word of the Lord, Joshua does the same, acknowledging this holy ground.  According to Jesus, when you put God first by seeking after righteousness, Matthew 6:33-34, all these things will be given unto you.  The testimony of Joshua is living proof as the walls of Jericho turned to rubble with the blast of seven trumpets in Joshua 6.  Whatever you do in life, don’t forget to put God first.

by Jay Mankus

A Baptism of Suffering?

As a former high school Bible teacher, I am familiar with the differences between a believer’s baptism, christening and dedication.  Depending upon the denomination, leadership and theology of a church, baptism can be a divisive issue.  During one conversation in college, I was told if I wasn’t immersed, then I wasn’t truly saved.  I don’t think this is what Jesus meant by a baptism of suffering.

I have a baptism [of great suffering] with which to be baptized, and how [greatly] I am distressed until it is accomplished! – Luke 12:50

In the passage above, Jesus begins to reveal the fate that he must endure in the coming weeks.  The disciples could not wrap their heads around Jesus’ comment.  Many of these men believed that Jesus would become an earthly king, rising to power as king of the Jews.  Thus, the twelve disciples ignored Jesus’ warning, focusing on their travel plans for the next day.  To a certain extent, everyone overlooks signs and warnings from friends, distracted by selfish ambition.

Or are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We have therefore been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory and power of the Father, we too might walk habitually in newness of life [abandoning our old ways], Romans 6:3-4.

The apostle Paul unravels what Jesus means by the statement a baptism of suffering.  At the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, bishops agreed upon the term homoousios.  This means that Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit are the same substance.  This means that Jesus was perfect, not needing to be purified.  However, as the Lamb of God, without blemish, Jesus needed to fulfill God’s will by suffering and dying on a cross.  Since Jesus completed his mission on earth, modern followers are baptized into Jesus’ death and raised from spiritual death through the power of the Holy Spirit.  May this blog bring clarity to this topic.

by Jay Mankus

Seeing God

My first exposure to the true meaning in the Bible came through two college courses.  Biblical and Classical Literature began by reading all 66 books of the Bible and ended with several classics like Beowulf.  My second class, the Bible as Literature wasn’t as interesting.  While examining the symbolism of the Bible with other ancient stories was educational, I don’t think my college professor went to seminary.  These experiences taught me not to read too much into literature.  Rather, take each piece in its original historical context.  Perhaps, this may explain why Joshua urged readers of the Bible to meditate on God’s laws day and night so that important details are not missed or neglected.

“Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God,” Matthew 5:8.

In the first century, a spiritual leader entered the scene as a vivid story teller, using analogies called parables to captivate an audience.  In the passage above, Jesus lists a series of beatitudes.  According to Jesus, any individual who pursues these spiritual ambitions will be blessed by God.  If anyone wants to develop a pure heart, three traits are necessary: godly character, integrity and moral courage.  These values are a mindset, steps toward becoming spiritually mature.  For those who stay the course, seeing God work in your life won’t be a concept that you read in a book.  Rather, your eyes will be opened to the movement of the Holy Spirit altering, changing and transforming your life.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is, 1 John 3:2.

A disciple of Jesus makes an interesting connection in the passage above.  As children, babies cling to their parents, relying on their mother’s milk for food and father’s leadership for direction.  Jesus welcomed little children in his ministry, eager to bless, hold and interact with them.  Yet, when children grow up, innocence is lost as negative adults begin to verbally squash a teenager’s dreams.  John tells first century adults to live in anticipation of God’s promises in the Bible.  Live by faith like children expecting to walk hand and hand with God in heaven.  The key to making this a reality is developing a pure heart.  As hearts become aligned with God’s will, you will see God move in America.

by Jay Mankus

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