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Tag Archives: maturity

Stop Blaming Your Past for Present Transgressions

After more than 20 years of coaching and teaching, I have encountered a plethora of sad stories. Whether its broken homes, death, divorce, suicide or teenage pregnancies, each dire situation is heart breaking. When teenagers go through these trying circumstances, common sense may cause adults to go easy on these individuals. Yet, how long do you allow present transgressions to be blamed on past trials?

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

The Bible has a complete different take on hardships that people experience on earth. The apostle Paul refers to sufferings as opportunities for growth. Paul sees the spiritual element as trials help shape character, endurance and hope. Meanwhile, the earthly brother of Jesus urges believers to rejoice each time you undergo hard times. Just like Paul, James reveals that extreme situation tests your faith, resulting in maturity and perseverance.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

This blog was inspired by events which took place a decade ago. I was an elder on a church board that oversaw a large Christian school. When times got tough, some of my friends quit this board, opening the door for the pastor to get his way. In the end, I witnessed the ugly side of Christianity as hypocrisy blinded believers I once looked up to. When this fiasco finally ended, the school was sold and church closed its doors. The institution I believed in, fought for and served vanished overnight.

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 4:11-12.

One of Jesus’ disciples reminds me that my ordeal is not strange or something that I should be surprised by. Rather, earthly trials serve as a purifying process, removing self as you draw closer to Christ. Unfortunately, I have allowed this painful experience to cause me to lose hope in the church. Instead of regularly attending the past 2 years, I have relied on television sermons as a substitute. Over the past few days, conviction has brought this transgression to the surface. Thus, it’s time to stop blaming the past for my decision to not join a church. May this conviction continue until I finally get involved in a local church.

by Jay Mankus

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Seeing Criticism for What it Is

The book definition for criticism is the expression of disapproval of someone or something based upon a perceived fault or mistake.  The key word here is perceived as modern criticism is usually based upon ideology.  Subsequently, if your beliefs, convictions or worldview varies from the socially acceptable norm, condemnation, denunciation and nitpicking will arrive fast and furious.  When the media chimes in, criticism often snowballs like an avalanche.

They preached the good news to that city and made many disciples, then they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening and establishing the hearts of the disciples; encouraging them to remain firm in the faith, saying, “It is through many tribulations and hardships that we must enter the kingdom of God,” Acts 14:21-22.

Shortly after being stoned by his spiritual opponents, on the verge of death, the apostle Paul gets back on his feet to share a lesson learned from this near death experience.  As he walked back to the same town where leaders wanted to kill him, Paul realized that anyone who wants to preach the good news about Jesus Christ must embrace hardship and tribulations.  Essentially, Paul is saying “don’t take religious criticism personally as they hated Jesus first,”

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

James, the earthly brother of Jesus builds upon Paul’s words in Lystra.  Trials build character resulting in spiritual maturity.  While criticism can and will be deserved from time to time, Christians must see criticism for what it is, a refining process that leads to genuine faith.  The more faith is tested, endurance and inner peace will shine through.  No one likes to be criticized, but when you see it through the lens of the Bible, spiritual growth is achieved.

by Jay Mankus

Who Really Deserves the Credit

A few days leading up to my son James’ wedding, my wife and I received praise and thanks.  Emma’s father Pete mentioned twice, once at the rehearsal dinner and during his wedding toast of the blessing that James been to Emma and their family.  While the hand of God is ultimately responsible for my son’s maturity, there are others who deserve credit as well.

The one who is taught the word [of God] is to share all good things with his teacher [contributing to his spiritual and material support], Galatians 6:6.

In 1988, a man named Ray Boltz was asked to write a song for Pastor Appreciation Sunday.  Upon completion, the lyrics of Thank You serve as a reflection, looking back at all the people in life who has directed, guided and helped individuals draw closer to Jesus.  When I think about James, I can’t forget all the Christian teachers at Red Lion who taught, nurtured and inspired James from kindergarten to eighth grade.  From his first, Mrs. DeMaio to his last, Mrs. Beattie, I thank God for everyone in between who has shaped and touched James’ life.

Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in. 10 So then, while we [as individual believers] have the opportunity, let us do good to all people [not only being helpful, but also doing that which promotes their spiritual well-being], and especially [be a blessing] to those of the household of faith (born-again believers), Galatians 6:9-10.

I don’t know how this story will end, James’ new life with Emma.  Yet, as a parent, I am committed to pray for, fast if necessary and build up this young couple.  Sometimes parents expect children to behave, mature and become a finished product in their time, not God’s.  Thus, all I can do is seize the opportunities that become available.  Despite how I feel or what I see from my own perspective, the apostle Paul commands believers to persist in doing good.  While I’m waiting, I want to thank all of you who have poured your own life into my son James.

by Jay Mankus

Love and Forgiveness

Every neighborhood has an observer.  This individual makes a hobby out of being in the know.  In the process of gathering information, gossip may distort fact from fiction.  Nonetheless, finding out what’s going on becomes an obsession.  For these personality types, digging up dirt on others produces an adrenaline rush.  Anyone who follows down this path begins to develop the mindset of a Pharisee.

Jesus, answering, said to the Pharisee, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Teacher, say it.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors: one owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they had no means of repaying [the debts], he freely forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” – Luke 7:40-42

In the first century, Jesus was regularly invited to dine with religious leaders.  Instead of trying to impress other guests, Jesus used each meal as an opportunity to minister to others.  After an uninvited prostitute approached Jesus to anoint his body with an expensive jar of perfume, commentary, murmurs and preconceived judgments were made about Jesus.  Frustrated by the lack of maturity displayed by the adults in this house, Jesus shares a parable to expose the heart of this matter.

Simon answered, “The one, I take it, for whom he forgave more.” Jesus said to him, “You have decided correctly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house [but you failed to extend to Me the usual courtesies shown to a guest]; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair [demonstrating her love], Luke 7:43-44.

Jesus tells a story about two debtors who did not have the ability to pay back their amount owed.  After finishing, Jesus turns to Simon, a Pharisee, asking a couple of questions.  This conversation exposes the flaw of most Pharisees, concentrating on judging others rather than displaying love and forgiveness.  Jesus warns the guests about falling into this harmful mindset.  In the end, if you want to be forgiven, you must love much.  Forgiveness and love follow the sowing principle.  Those who love much are forgiven, but those who love little, forgive little.  May this parable speak to your heart, inspiring a desire to love and forgive like Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little,” Luke 7:47.

The Enemy of Our Souls

How you ever noticed the large-scale systematic plan that is occurring worldwide?  This clever marketing scheme distracts individuals from the real problem, the enemy of our souls.  The 2017 version of the film It has recently become the top grossing horror film of all time, amassing over 300 million in sales.  I’m amazed how people can take a diversion to a theater to experience their monthly fright night, yet fail to recognize the personal demons that terrorize individuals daily.  This invisible war is crushing, destroying and wounding human souls who don’t know what to do or how to fight back.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes, Ephesians 6:10-11.

Roman soldier’s were equipped with spikes on the bottom of their sandals.  Similar to techniques used during the Revolutionary War, battalions were taught to hold the line of defense so that the enemy could not come up from behind for a sneak attack.  Prior to any battle, Roman soldiers began to dig in like a baseball player entering the batter’s box.  This practice enabled warriors to secure their footing, entrenched and ready to fight.  Unfortunately, most people are caught off guard, flat footed, unable to stand up against the schemes of the Devil.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand, Ephesians 6:12-13.

As a former teacher, I made plenty of mistakes.  Some from a lack of experience, maturity or wisdom.  As I reflect upon this decade of my life, one common error that haunts me is overlooking specific details.  In the passage above, verse 12 gets most of the attention, unveiling the spiritual realm that exists in another dimension.  Yet, the end of verse 13 is the key, the solution to the enemy of our soul, making sure that you have done everything to stand.  Do you start end day with Bible Study, take time to pray, make the effort to fellowship with believers, seek out godly council and worship the Lord in song?  Depending upon your exposure to Christianity, this check list may be shorter or longer.  Nonetheless, if you truly want to live the abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10, you have to prepare like a soldier gearing up for battle.  May this blog arm you with necessary resources to protect your soul.

by Jay Mankus

Adding Love to the Law

From an early age, the idea of boundaries is a turn off.  At birth, human nature introduces a curiosity similar to that which led Eve to break God’s lone law, eating from the Tree of Knowledge.  As a parent, condemnation comes naturally, a common response to children who disobey you.  Yet, Jesus reminds a large crowd during the first century that love should be applied to Jewish law.

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? – Matthew 5:46-47

Jesus uses common sense to drive home this point.  Pagans lived by a different set of standards.  Jews were expected by God to be set apart, striving to apply biblical principles.  Yet, if a Christian’s love is no different from a Pagan, what’s the point.  Therefore, individuals should make it their ambition to add love to the law.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me, 1 Corinthians 13:11.

The only problem is this goal requires maturity as love doesn’t come naturally.  This fruit of the Spirit is an acquired trait nurtured by the Holy Spirit.  At some point people have to grow up by developing a will to love.  Hanging around like minded people, growing in your knowledge of the Bible and practicing prayer is a good place to start.  However, if you want to fulfill Jesus’ request, make sure your feelings are held in check, sanctified by love.

by Jay Mankus

The Fellowship of Suffering

About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.  Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed, Luke 22:59-60.

While individuals may not want to admit it, there is a lot of Peter within most human beings.  When questioned by someone like Jesus, its easy to become defensive proclaiming, “I’d never do that.”  Yet, when push comes to shove human nature longs for acceptance.  Thus, few people ever join the fellowship of suffering.

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go,” John 21:18.

When Jesus witnessed Peter’s final denial, this event likely cut to his heart.  Usually a big talker, Peter’s fear of persecution revealed a major flaw within his character.  Based upon the words within the gospel of John, it appears that this betrayal of Jesus haunted Peter for years.  Nonetheless, Jesus shows the way toward the fellowship of suffering, letting go and allowing God to lead you where you don’t want to go.

For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil, 1 Peter 3:17.

Following a moment of reconciliation with Jesus, Peter begins to enter a special group.  Unless you are willing to endure hardships for doing what is right, the fellowship of suffering is unattainable.  Jesus’ brother James refers to embracing trials by considering each attack on your faith a joy.  Whether it was maturity or a spiritual transformation, Peter gave up his life to spread the good news about Jesus Christ.  Prior to his death, Peter demanded to be crucified upside down claiming he was unworthy to die in the same manner of his Savior.  May this blog inspire you to follow in Peter’s footsteps by joining the Fellowship of Suffering.

by Jay Mankus

 

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