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Understand This

As a former high school teacher, understand this is code for get ready to listen. The author of the first Catholic Letter in the New Testament uses understand this as a transitional statement. Following a short section on God as the Giver of All Good Things, James provides practical advice that should be applied daily. This isn’t optional for Christians. Rather, it’s mandatory and necessary to become the person that God wants you to be.

Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry. 20 For man’s anger does not promote the righteousness God [wishes and requires], James 1:19-20.

In the passage above, James gives instructions for becoming a student of God’s Word. When you’re eager to learn, you won’t interrupt the teacher every time a thought pops into your head. Rather, a ready listener is slow to speak as you contemplate and meditate upon what you are hearing. Perhaps, this is what Jesus meant by the expression “don’t just be a hearer of the Word, but be a doer of God’s Word.” Before acting out in anger, students of the Bible are better prepared to avoid sinning while angry.

So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls, James 1:21.

Before you start feeling good about yourself, James calls all Christians to clean up your life. This isn’t just a New Years resolution that will fade away by the Spring. Rather, weeding out any addiction or bad habit from your life will result in subtle changes that will culminate in a spiritual transformation. Yet, this is only possible when the Bible is implanted within thought life and rooted inside your heart. Understand this faith comes from hearing the message and the message is the testimony of Jesus Christ, Romans 10:17.

by Jay Mankus

The Giving and Taking of Life

Twenty four hours ago, I was celebrating my oldest son’s wedding.  As I witnessed James and Emma’s love for one another, an overwhelming sense of joy touched my heart.  This event highlights a blessing from God as the giver of life in the form of gifts from above, James 1:17.  Unfortunately, I received a text a few hours ago informing me that my uncle John, my dad’s oldest brother, passed away this afternoon.  This wave of emotions has reminded me of the giving and taking of life.

So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome boils and agonizingly painful sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And Job took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself, and he sat [down] among the ashes (rubbish heaps), Job 2:7-8.

Every month or so I stumble upon a television evangelist who paints the Christian life through rose colored glasses.  These messages follow the same script, promising that the moment you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, all of your troubles will disappear.  While new believers will possess a new found hope, this depiction of life is not realistic.  With every blessing, individuals will also endure hardship, pain and suffering.  According to Job, you have to accept the good with any bad that comes your way.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still cling to your integrity [and your faith and trust in God, without blaming Him]? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the [spiritually] foolish women speaks [ignorant and oblivious to God’s will]. Shall we indeed accept [only] good from God and not [also] accept adversity and disaster?” In [spite of] all this Job did not sin with [words from] his lips, Job 2:9-10.

In the passage above, Job’s wife speaks as if thinking out loud.  As she witnessed the boils covering her husband, anguish, grief and frustration motivated her response to “curse God and die.”  In the heat of the moment, knee jerk reactions are a common occurrence.  Nonetheless, if you are looking for answers to why God allows bad things to happen to good people, Job nails it!  You must accept the good with the bad.  According to one of Jesus’ disciples, going through trials are designed to build character, 1 Peter 1:6-7.  Therefore, If you want to possess a realistic approach to life, roll with the punches as you experience the giving and taking of life.

by Jay Mankus

Pierced with Many Griefs

The term pierce refers to a foreign object which accesses, enters or penetrates someone’s body.  This can be by choice for those who enjoy earrings or nose rings.  Meanwhile, sometimes piercings can occur without your permission, unexpected and without warning.  This is what the apostle Paul refers to as being pierced with many griefs.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs, 1 Timothy 6:10.

If every day is like a box of chocolates without any labels, nobody knows for sure what you are going to bite into and taste.  Therefore, preparations must be made to guard yourself against invisible piercings to your soul.  According to the passage above, contentment is a good place to start.  This should prevent individuals from the love of money which causes people to lose sight of the giver of life.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows, James 1:17.

When you don’t get the results that you want in life, disappointment can be like a blow to the stomach, knocking the wind out of you.  While the unfortunate are often stuck in misery.  The influential, powerful or wealthy tend to purchase the outcome that they want.  Perhaps this is the root of all evil, especially when people attempt to supersede the will of God.  Whatever the apostle Paul means by this verse in the Bible, don’t forget to ask the Lord for strength when the piercing of many griefs come knocking on your door.

by Jay Mankus

Theories about Falling Apart

I grew up in the soft rock era as nearly every album contained a minimum of one ballet per side.  During the 1980’s, radio stations played the same 12-15 songs in a loop.  Except for all request lunch hours or evenings with Delilah, individuals waited in their cars, on their deck or listening to a stereo as depicted in Tom Hanks’ film That Thing You Do.  Groups like Air Supply sang about being lost without their significant other in All Out of Love.  However, when it comes to theories about falling apart, no one compares to the band Chicago.  While I loved their music, their songs are filled with break up lyrics, trying to recover from one broken relationship after another.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me, John 15:4.

Canadian Rock band Thousand Foot Krutch continues to expand upon theories about falling apart.  In their video of the song Falls Apart, TFK uses ropes like strings on a puppet.  The lyrics suggest that everything falls apart when they walk away from their girl.  However, beyond the obvious is a spiritual message.  Whenever a person of faith walks away from God, their life begins to slowly fall apart.  Like Bette Midler’s famous song, the Lord is the Wind Beneath Our Wings.  Thus, any type of absence, departure or period of prodigal journey will weaken the human soul.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” John 15:5.

In a private meeting with his disciples, Jesus gives one final theory about falling apart.  The Lord compares himself to a vine, the source of life.  God plays the role of a gardener, pruning those areas of life that are unproductive.  By staying connected through Bible Study, prayer and worship, spiritual nourishment is provided.  However, the moment you become disconnected, removing God from the equation, emptiness replaces the Giver of Life.  Therefore, if you feel like you’re on the verge of falling apart, tap into a higher power to rejuvenate a thirsty soul.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Sign of Goodness

Hindsight can change your perspective on the past, giving you a thorough understanding of the events in your life.  On the other hand, obstacles, setbacks and unforeseen trials can blur your vision for the future, resulting in bleak expectations.  When optimism is replaced by a spirit of doubt, its time to seek divine intervention.

Known for many things, King David had become empowered by his own prayer life.  This man of God was not afraid to express his concerns to the Living God.  Fed up by the prosperity of the wicked, David turned his attention to God’s miracles of the past.  Thus, within Psalm 86:17, he pleads with God to receive a sign of goodness.

The better you know someone, the more risks you begin to take, asking deeper and more personal questions.  Whether it was his years in the wilderness as a shepherd or a close relationship with a spiritual mentor not mentioned in the Bible, David knew the true nature of God.  His prayers within the book of Psalms are powerful outlines, a wealth of knowledge for anyone looking to find answers in life.

Therefore, don’t accept mediocrity in your spiritual life.  Though you won’t be able to fully discern the mind of God as Job tried to do, signs of goodness are awaiting.  The apostle Paul speaks of these things in a passage to the church in Ephesus, Ephesians 2:10.  Instead of turning into Oscar the Grouch, release your burdens upward, pouring your heart and soul in prayer to the giver of life, James 1:17.

by Jay Mankus

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