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Contend for the Faith in 2022

The term contend suggests that you are about to enter a struggle with difficulty and or danger to overcome. This ordeal is like a battle for supremacy, similar to a hotly contested athletic competition. Jude doesn’t use hope for the best or try as if quoting a Little League motto. Rather, Jude is calling on all first century Christians to become active participants in defending the faith for Jesus Christ.

Beloved, my whole concern was to write to you in regard to our common salvation. [But] I found it necessary and was impelled to write you and urgently appeal to and exhort [you] to contend for the faith which was once for all [a]handed down to the saints [the faith which is that sum of Christian belief which was delivered [b]verbally to the holy people of God], Jude 1:3.

As human beings, priorities tend to shift depending upon the time of year. When a series of unexpected events throw a wrench into your schedule, you usually have to make sacrifices. You may even have to cancel several commitments that you wanted to keep. In the midst of trials and tribulations, you may lose your way for a while. Yet, as Jude states above, don’t forget about your spiritual future and salvation.

Fight the good fight of the faith; lay hold of the eternal life to which you were summoned and [for which] you confessed the good confession [of faith] before many witnesses, 1 Timothy 6:12.

As an adult over the age of fifty, I don’t have the energy I once possessed as a hyperactive teenager. Nonetheless, there is still something worth fighting for: the future of my children, potential grandchildren and a decaying spiritual heritage in America. This is where Christians must ascertain their spiritual gift, fine tune them and fan these gifts into flame, 2 Timothy 1:6-7. In your own weakness, may Christ be strong so that you may become an active participant in contending for the Christian faith in 2022.

by Jay Mankus

Mind Your Own Business

In my younger years as a student, if I was caught eavesdropping or asked too many questions, an insider would reply “mind your own business.” This idiom means to refrain from meddling, by keeping to your own affairs. Apparently, this expression was first used in the first century by the apostle Paul. Perhaps Paul was referencing part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:1-5. Instead of judging others, Paul wants believers to get your own affairs in order first.

To make it your ambition and definitely endeavor to live quietly and peacefully, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you,12 So that you may bear yourselves becomingly and be correct and honorable and command the respect of the outside world, being dependent on nobody [self-supporting] and having need of nothing, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.

In a letter to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul builds upon this concept. No one likes a control freak who points their finger to cast blame upon anyone who makes a mistake. If I could paraphrase the words above into modern lingo, “don’t tell people how to live, show them by your own example.” Christians who focus on studying the Bible, praying and applying biblical truth set the tone and become the light of the world, Matthew 5:14-16.

Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]. Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others, Philippians 2:3-4.

Instead of using similar terminology like take the plank out of your own eye first, Paul focuses on priorities. If your own life is falling apart, you won’t be much help to anyone in need. While Paul doesn’t say be selfish in the passage above, he suggests that you need to take care of your own interests first. Once you get your own house in order by removing any signs of hypocrisy, you can begin to look out for the interests of others.

by Jay Mankus

For To Me To Live is…

I may be alone, but my priorities are constantly changing. As my children grow up, I try to make myself available when my work schedule allows. Yet, as seasons change, one activity takes precedent over another. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself in a state of flux, unable to do everything that you want. Nonetheless, how you invest your time will reveal to others what you seek to find life in.

For me to live is Christ [His life in me], and to die is gain [the gain of the glory of eternity], Philippians 1:21.

Priorities often change when you approach a crossroad in life. This fork in the road requires a decision. Whatever you choose will alter your lifestyle. Whether this is caused by an accident, a medical issue or spiritual conviction, sacrifices have to be made. The disciplined will view this as a challenge. The driven will set goals to inspire toward and reach. Yet, the distracted often struggle, unsure where and what to find life in.

If, however, it is to be life in the flesh and I am to live on here, that means fruitful service for me; so I can say nothing as to my personal preference [I cannot choose], 23 But I am hard pressed between the two. My yearning desire is to depart (to be free of this world, to set forth) and be with Christ, for that is far, far better; Philippians 1:22-23.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul reached a point where he stopped caring about what other people thought about his relationship with God. Instead of trying to please others, Jesus became Paul’s main priority. This mindset led Paul to find life in serving Christ. Whenever Paul drifted spiritually, Paul felt dead inside. Thus, the motto “to live is Christ and to die for his faith” was conceived. However, free will gives everyone the choice to accept or reject God. Therefore, it’s up to you to decide where and in what you will find life. Choose wisely, Deuteronomy 30:15-16.

by Jay Mankus

Drawn in Diverging Directions

Diverging refers to following a different direction or path. Whenever you make a decision to diverge, you want to become different, going against the flow. In this Progressive Age, those who diverge should be celebrated for being interested in new ideas, findings and opportunities. Unfortunately, backlash from the Cancel Culture Movement is using political correctness, progressive ideology and social justice to shame individuals who deviate from the norm.

My desire is to have you free from all anxiety and distressing care. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord; 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly matters—how he may please his wife—1 Corinthians 7:32-33

The apostle Paul introduces the concept of spiritual divergence in a letter to the church at Corinth. While trying to explain his perspective as a single man, Paul points to friends who were drawn in diverging directions. If you understand the concept of happy wife, happy life, spouses feel compelled to please their soul mates. Based upon Paul’s own encounters with married Christian brothers, devotion to God often slips as wives become a greater priority than the Lord.

And he is drawn in diverging directions [his interests are divided and he is distracted from his devotion to God]. And the unmarried woman or girl is concerned and anxious about the matters of the Lord, how to be wholly separated and set apart in body and spirit; but the married woman has her cares [centered] in earthly affairs—how she may please her husband, 1 Corinthians 7:34.

Whether you are single, married or recently divorced, everyone experiences cycles. Periods where you draw close to God and years when you drift apart. Days. weeks and months when you are disciplined and focused on seizing the moment only to fall back into bad habits, drawn back into diverging directions. This is where maintaining a healthy balance comes into play between work and recreation. As long as free will exists, people will continue to be drawn in diverging directions. As you diverge, make sure that you don’t stray too far from home.

by Jay Mankus

How Serious are You?

Serious is defined as demanding careful consideration or application. While a perfectionist will attempt to do everything seriously, most individuals will show various degrees of concern. Those things near and dear to your heart will likely draw more attention. Meanwhile, lesser priorities will tend to receive a more carefree approach. As the Coronavirus continues to spread, this pandemic is forcing individuals to rethink the way that people live their daily lives.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night, Psalm 1:1-2.

Depending upon the circumstance, fear can either be healthy or unhealthy. From a biblical perspective, fear of the Lord separates a novice from a fully devoted Christ follower. While fear is often used in a negative context, fearing God refers to a holy reverence. Thus, developing this mindset is like showing a daily allegiance to Jesus through your actions. Holy fear steers those serious about their faith away from compromising and tempting situations toward obedience. In today’s context, practicing social distancing until COVID-19 fades or dies out completely.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is everyone who fears, reveres, and worships the Lord, who walks in His ways and lives according to His commandments, Psalm 128:1.

According to the Psalmist, fear and worship go hand and hand. While being a serious Christian doesn’t guarantee success, the more you walk in the Lord’s ways, the less likely you will stumble and fall. Anyone who demonstrates a healthy fear of the Lord will tend to purge addiction, bad habits and influences of sin from their life. At the present time, only God knows how long the Coronavirus will last. Yet, those who take this threat seriously, will likely live to see another day and God willing, a prosperous future.

by Jay Mankus

A Conscious Decision

As an adult, there will be many memorable moments in your life. When things are going good, you may be having such a great time that you forget your responsibility as a parent. While coaching and teaching at Red Lion, I neglected my family, spending countless hours each week grading papers, preparing lesson plans and overseeing my golf team. In my free time, I played on a church softball team every Friday night. About 10 years ago, I was so consumed with my own life that I had become an absent father.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:6.

One night I was able to watch James play in a Little League baseball game. His team lost 2-1, but James hit an inside the park home run. The only other time James got up he doubled, but go stranded on base as the game ended. I was surprised to see James batting 10th. Sure, every parent believes that their child is better they actually are, but batting at the bottom of the lineup didn’t make sense. After a conversation with a neighbor, I discovered James used the coaches son’s bat without asking. Thus, James was punished by his coach. This petty act led me to make a conscious decision to become more involved in the lives of my children. The following year I became one of James’ coach, the first of 7 straight years coaching or managing a team for Greater Newark Baseball.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4.

Like I have mentioned in previous blogs, I do everything to the extreme. I’m either all in or mentally unattached. This conscious decision has made me spend most of my free time in the last decade attending activities, competitions and sporting events. Although I don’t have the friendships that I once did outside my home, I am seizing every moment left that I have with Daniel and Lydia before they graduate high school. I definitely don’t have the energy that I once did, but I am doing my best to be an active and supportive father. Looking back, maybe I could have done things differently, but I don’t regret my conscious decision to make my children and family a major priority.

by Jay Mankus

When Jesus Slides Down Your Top 10 List

Despite all of the new technological advancements, I still like to write down a to do list. While my priorities change from week to week, the satisfaction of checking off a goal makes me feel like I have actually accomplished something. When I don’t take the time to jot down my priorities, I make a mental note in my mind so when the weekend arrives, I can begin my list.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you., Matthew 6:33.

During the week, I have a set routine until my children’s sports schedules commences. To attend as my games and meets as possible, I am forced to alter my to do list. In the process, sometimes Jesus slides down a few notches from the top down toward the middle. When I delay my time to read the Bible, journal my thoughts and pray, it’s not uncommon to skip this spiritual discipline, forgetting about it completely.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also, Luke 12:34.

Jesus warns individuals like me to guard your heart. If you are not careful, temporary pleasures will influence your heart to change what you treasure. The more Jesus slides down your top 10 to do list, it’s likely that you will slowly grow apart from God. To prevent this slide from becoming a trend, Jesus urges believers to seek first God’s kingdom and righteous. When you do, God promises to bless and restore your life.

by Jay Mankus

Living as a Fugitive from God

Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones star in the 1993 the Fugitive.  When noted surgeon Richard Kimble is wrongfully accused, tried and convicted for the brutal murder of his wife, a crash enables him to escape to prove his innocence.  Like any modern murder mystery series, sometimes the evidence is overwhelming, making it nearly impossible to convince authorities of the truth.  Thus, most fugitives are forced to runaway until a plan is advised to regain their freedom through the justice system.

But the man who was injuring his neighbor pushed Moses away, saying, ‘Who appointed you ruler and judge over us? 28 Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this remark Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons, Acts 7:28-29.

One of the forefathers of Israel found himself in a similar position.  Raised by the daughter of Pharaoh, Moses could no longer remain silent as his descendants were being treated as slaves of Egypt.  When Moses witnessed a brutal beating, he avenged the oppression of one man by killing an Egyptian.  As soon as news spread of Moses’ act of aggression, he fled to Midian, leaving as a fugitive for forty years.  All we know about these wasted years is that Moses fathered two sons.

30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning thorn bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was astonished at the sight; but as he went near to look more closely, the voice of the Lord came [to him, saying], Acts 7:30-31.

You don’t have to commit a crime to feel like a fugitive.  Rather, all you need to do is make other things in life a greater priority than God.  If this trend continues, it won’t be long before Sunday is just another day to do what you want instead of pausing to worship the Lord.  God nudged Moses by using an angel to get him back on track, in the direction of where the Lord desires.  Sadly, I find myself in a similar place, living as a fugitive from God.  I thought Easter Sunday would reignite a fire within my soul, but my priorities haven’t changed.  I shouldn’t need an angel to tell me to return to church.  Rather, an infusion from the Word of God, the Bible should provide conviction to bring me back again.

by Jay Mankus

What Do You Think?

Jesus uses an array of conversational methods to promote discussion in the Bible.  Prior to sharing the Parable of the Two Sons, Jesus asked the chief priest and elders a simple question, “what do you think?”  Like an individual in a court room on trial, Jesus flips the script, playing the role of a prosecutor.  Instead of being tested by religious leaders, Jesus uses a hypothetical scenario to examine whether these so called scholars understood the nature of God.

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’  “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went,” Matthew 21:28-29.

As a parent with three children, this parable is relative, a common occurrence.  When a chore is not completed around the house, my wife or I will remind our son or daughter to do this.  If another day goes by without any action, my son Daniel tends to come up with some sort of excuse.  Sometimes he’s honest, saying,”I didn’t feel like it.”  In reality, when tasks around the house aren’t completed, this isn’t a priority, but what do you think?

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.  “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered.  Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you,” Matthew 21:30-31.

When I read this parable yesterday, my initial thoughts were that both sons are at fault.  One said no, changed his mind and completed this job, fueled by guilt.  Meanwhile, the second son gives lip service without any action.  According to the easy key listed above, the first son is the wrong answer, but what do you think?  This passage of the Bible serves as a good ice breaker or debate question.  Sometimes, Jesus wants people to mull over, ponder and think over portions of the Bible.  You may even feel compelled to ask a friend, elders or a pastor before you reach a final position.  Nonetheless, don’t be afraid to ask others, “what do you think?”

by Jay Mankus

When Children Think Dad is No Longer Cool

When I became a first time parent 19 years ago, I began to ask elders from church about parenting.  Although each shared different principles to apply, one common message was passed on.  At some point, kids will reach a stage in life when hanging out with dad is no longer cool.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:6.

As teenagers begin to develop a social life, priorities change.  At some point parents have to let go and allow their children to grow up.  When kids are still young, Solomon encourages fathers to demonstrate, emulate and model godliness.  Raising children with character is only effective if fathers live out what they believe.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4.

Instead of taking things personal, fathers with older children need to re-direct their attention.  This involves setting goals, developing vision and start thinking about what life will be like when your nest is empty.  On this father’s day, don’t exasperate your children.  Rather, ask the Lord for direction in prayer when kids reach the stage in life when dad is no longer cool to hang out with.

by Jay Mankus

 

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