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Tag Archives: spiritual growth

What Rewards will Last?

During the first century, a spirit of favoritism began to spread throughout the church at Corinth. Based upon verses 4-7, some church members were elevating Apollos and Paul to god-like status. To nip this in the butt by preventing others from taking similar stances, Paul explains the role that leaders and preachers play in the spiritual growth of their flock. As individuals share their faith or reach out to the lost, spiritual seeds are sown. However, it is God who waters and makes these seeds grow.

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). 12 But if anyone builds upon the Foundation, whether it be with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 The work of each [one] will become [plainly, openly] known (shown for what it is); for the day [of Christ] will disclose and declare it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test and critically appraise the character and worth of the work each person has done, 1 Corinthians 3:11-13.

Fearful that some had already selfishly taken credit for winning souls to Christ, Paul uses an analogy to set people straight about spiritual rewards. Building upon the apostle’s teaching of 1 Peter 1:6-7, Paul refers to the refining process. This test will expose hidden agendas, motives and personal goals. After everything has been uncovered and laid bare, only those rewards built on the foundation of Christ will last. Anything else will become like dust in the wind, quickly vanishing from sight.

If the work which any person has built on this Foundation [any product of his efforts whatever] survives [this test], he will get his reward. 15 But if any person’s work is burned up [under the test], he will suffer the loss [of it all, losing his reward], though he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has passed] through fire, 1 Corinthians 3:14-15.

The above passage appears to parallel Hebrews 10:26-27 with a different focus. While the author of Hebrews 10 blames addiction to sin for just barely getting into heaven, Paul eludes to those who will enter heaven without a reward. To avoid experiencing a spiritual Christmas in heaven without any gifts under the tree, Paul addresses which rewards will last. Just as Galatians 5:16-17 warns Christians about sinful desires, eternal rewards are accumulated by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. Thus, as hearts, minds and souls look upward, these heavenly treasures will survive.

by Jay Mankus

My Own Spiritual Mr. Miyagi

In 1984, I was in the middle of my freshman of high school. As the summer began, Karate Kid debuted in the theaters starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. While I don’t recall seeing this film right away, I could relate to Daniel LaRusso’s character. As a small hundred pound teenager, I was a push over, bullied on numerous occasions. Although I didn’t turn to karate to defend myself, God had another plan for me which was revealed a year later.

I [the Lord] will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you, Psalm 32:8.

My former science teacher, Mr. Horne, started to mentor me during my sophomore year. After I joined the swim team which he coached, Ken took me under his wings. Similar to the role played by Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid, Coach Horne became like a second father. Ken was instrumental in my spiritual growth, inviting me to Concord’s Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s huddle which he led. The night I accepted Jesus into my heart as Savior, Coach Horne was there to answer the various questions that I had about faith.

Speaking of this as he does in all of his letters. There are some things in those [epistles of Paul] that are difficult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist and misconstrue to their own utter destruction, just as [they distort and misinterpret] the rest of the Scriptures. 17 Let me warn you therefore, beloved, that knowing these things beforehand, you should be on your guard, lest you be carried away by the error of lawless and wicked [persons and] fall from your own [present] firm condition [your own steadfastness of mind], 2 Peter 3:16-17.

After graduating high school, my relationship with Ken only became stronger. I would regularly stop by unannounced each summer, spending hours catching up and talking about life. When Ken transitioned from a teacher to a local youth pastor, I volunteered as much as I could to support his ministry. This decision provided several memorable Lay Witness Missions, serving on the team that led revival weekends throughout the Tri-state area. These experiences prepared me to become a high school Bible teacher and youth pastor later on in life.

So, being thus tenderly and affectionately desirous of you, we continued to share with you not only God’s good news (the Gospel) but also our own lives as well, for you had become so very dear to us, 1 Thessalonians 2:8.

When I got engaged to Leanne in 1994, I couldn’t image my wedding without Ken. Thus, my former coach, teacher and mentor became one of my three groomsmen. During our wedding reception, Ken encouraged guests to sing Christmas carols in place of dinging glasses to see Leanne and I kiss. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago I received news that Ken was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I can’t think of anything worse for a modern day apostle Paul to experience and undergo. Yet, I am thankful for all that Ken Horne has done for me as my own spiritual Mr. Miyagi. While Ken’s chances for survival are slim, there is a mansion in heaven awaiting him filled with countless blessings for his service on earth.

by Jay Mankus

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

The X Factor of Growth

The term X factor refers to a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome.  In the context of a sporting event, the X factor could be a replacement, substitute or specific play that changes the momentum of a game.  This may be an unlikely hero or a star who seizes the moment by coming up clutch.  In the 1996 film Tin Cup, Kevin Costner plays Roy McAvoy, a driving range golf professional who qualifies for the United States Open.  This reckless golfer takes unnecessary chances, following the motto, “each shot is a defining moment.  Either you define the moment or the moment defines you.”

They were continually and faithfully devoting themselves to the instruction of the apostles, and to fellowship, to]eating meals together and to prayers. 43 A sense of awe was felt by everyone, and many wonders and signs (attesting miracles) were taking place through the apostles, Acts 2:42-43.

During the first century, few churches had a physical building.  Some met in local synagogues, others met outdoors on the outskirts of town, but most gathered in homes.  According to Luke, this decision was the X factor in promoting spiritual growth.  As people from different ethnic backgrounds began to meet for fellowship, prayer and spiritual discussions, a special bond formed.  This spiritual climate set the stage for a revival, the first Great Awakening in history.  Outsiders were curious, hungry for what these followers of Christ demonstrated and possessed.

And all those who had believed [in Jesus as Savior] were together and had all things in common [considering their possessions to belong to the group as a whole]. 45 And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing the proceeds with all [the other believers], as anyone had need, Acts 2:44-45.

Based upon the passage above, poverty was eliminated by this generous group of believers.  Whenever a member of the church had an emergency, problem or need, wealthy members sold their possessions to cover any cost or expense.  Ultimately, the X factor for any congregation is when people become the hands and feet of Christ.  This isn’t done out of a desire to be recognized.  Rather, genuine love keeps no record of wrongs, giving out of the goodness of your heart.  May the Holy Spirit inspire you to be the X factor in your community.

by Jay Mankus

Where are the Harvesters?

If you have ever visited several churches over the course of a month, methods, styles and terminology vary.  Some denominations expect priests, pastors or preachers to do the core of the discipleship, evangelism and ministry work.  Yet, Jesus tell his disciples a completely different approach.  God’s plan involves harvesters.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few,” Matthew 9:37.

In this age of megachurches, spiritual growth is misleading.  Visitors often treat facilities like the latest trend, hopping from the old to the new as long as it satisfies your soul.  When the crowd begins to move in a different direction, loyalty is pushed aside.  This mentality causes individuals to become consumers, not servants.  Thus, harvesters are vanishing as a new generation of Christians take center stage in the church.

Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field, Matthew 9:38.

One of the logical reasons for this void is known as the 90:10 rule.  Ten percent of congregations does ninety percent of the work at church.  This overuse can wear out willing volunteers.  If these harvesters aren’t given a break, burn out can occur.  In view of this, discipleship, nurturing and training is essential to unite the body of Christ.  When spiritual workers become a rarity in your house of worship, may a spirit of prayer prompt the Holy Spirit to bring harvesters out of retirement and back into action.

by Jay Mankus

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