Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

The first edict Jesus gives in The Sermon on the Mount is be poor in spirit. Now this is a little confusing. Why would anyone want to have a poor spirit as opposed to a wonderful, great, fantastic spirit?? How is having a poor spirit supposed to make us happy??


Well okay…a poor spirit, by that definition, does not make us happy. But let’s look at it from a different angle. Think about it monetarily. We all probably know psfolks on nearly every level of the economic scale…extremely poor, lower middle class, well-to-do, rich, and super wealthy (those are not officially sanctioned terms, just my spin on things…I’m confident you get the idea). At any rate, those on the upper end of the scale are doing just fine. They don’t need any help from anyone. It doesn’t really matter where their wealth comes from…the point is that they have it. They also tend to have more stuff…bigger houses, fancier cars, more toys. That’s not a criticism just an observation. On the flip side, the lower down on the scale you go the less stuff people tend to have and the more help they need. Our world tends to put wealth on a pedestal and look at the poor with a mix of pity, disgust, and disregard, so that frame of reference also makes this particular directive somewhat difficult to accept. None of us desires to be poor.


Jesus’ point though doesn’t really have as much to do with money directly as it does our tendency to put money (among other things) higher on the priority list than a relationship with Him. He is trying to tell us that no matter what we do for a living, how strong we are mentally and physically, or how much stuff we have, we are nothing without God and we are to always, always, always rely on Him. Those who never lose sight of the fact that God is to be the foundation of our lives will ultimately be happy…if not in this life then most certainly in the next one. Jesus said “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. This statement follows the Parable of the Rich Young Ruler, a story in which a man was willing to do whatever it took to have eternal life…except give away his earthly possessions, status, and influence. Jesus goes on to teach that “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (i.e wealth, riches, worldly gain).”  1 Timothy states “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, Godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”


When it comes to our relationship with God we need to always be as humble as the underprivileged masses who can’t allow themselves to be too proud to ask for help. They need help to survive, so they must swallow their pride and accept assistance. In the same way we must put aside vanity and ego and enter into a relationship with Christ with humility and submission to His will.



Superfluous 7 – New Year’s Resolutions You Won’t Keep

A new year…a new decade…has dawned. What better time to introduce a new feature here at The Manofesto, a little ditty I am calling The Superfluous 7. Modestly modeled after Letterman’s Top 10, I am calling my lists superfluous because I am not arrogant enough to think they are in any way necessary or important. Most of the time they’ll be flippantly fun, sometimes maybe a bit more mocking and edgy.


Our first topic of 2010 will be, fittingly enough, New Year’s resolutions. I am not a big fan of the resolution. It just seems like an exercise in futility. If you really want to accomplish something just do it. There’s no reason to wait for an arbitrary date on the calendar. There’s no way of knowing how many people actually keep their resolutions, but I suspect the percentage is extremely low. As I write this it is the 3rd day of the year and I’m betting the vast majority have already broken promises they made to themselves. I am not trying to be negative, I am just being honest.


So, without any further ado…



from the home office in Waxahachie, Texas…



The Superfluous 7 New Year’s Resolutions You Won’t Keep:



7 Stop Smoking

I’m not a smoker. Never have been, never will be. Oh sure, I’ve smoked a cigarette or two or three in my time (usually in a dark bar at 1am while under the heavy influence of adult beverages while in college), and I have nothing against the occasional cigar…..but that does not a smoker make. I put this in the 7 spot simply because I do know people that have quit successfully, and I think more often than not, out of all of these resolutions, this is the one people really WANT to keep. But I also know that quitting is a very difficult task and something that has to be done because a person is really truly ready to make a change and not just because the calendar says January 1.


6 Get Organized

What does this even mean?? I live a fairly simple life, so I don’t really have all that much to keep track of and manage. As long as I remember to feed the dog, pay the cable, phone, and internet bill, and show up to work on time it’s all good. I did go through a phase where I carried around a very nice looking planner for a couple of years, but I came to realize that I rarely had anything to plan. Now I know life can be a bit more hectic for folks with a spouse, children, an important job, and lots of social activities. But it is my opinion that there are two kinds of people…those fastidious, Type A, jet setting, always-on-the-go types who need to “be organized”, and then the other 90% of the population. If you fall into the first group you are probably already organized, and if you’re a common ordinary schlub like me then why bother?? Really, you aren’t that important. Nothing in your life is that dire of an emergency…you just like to ramp up the drama to inflate your sense of importance and self worth. Calm down, chill out, and have a beverage. As long as you feed your kids and keep them in school, make sure you’re a good employee at work, and keep the car gassed up you’ll be okay.


5 Do More Volunteer Work

Really?? Isn’t having a job enough?? I know volunteer work sounds like a really nice thing to do…like saving the planet or feeding those poor African kids that hang out with Sally Struthers. But the reality is that most of us get up, go to work, and by the time we get home, do any kind of family stuff, and do what is necessary to keep up the house our dance card is pretty full. Most of us want to spend any free time we have curled up with a good book, mindlessly surfing through the 500 channels on our big screen TV, or chatting with friends online. I myself am a Literacy Volunteer but if I am being completely honest I am a horrible one. I got into it at a time in my life where I had some surplus time due to health issues and not being able to work. Now that I am back on the job I just don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to be super volunteer…and I’m single with no kids and a rather sparse social life. I suspect most everyone is of that mindset, and you know what…that’s okay.


4 Take a Class/Learn Something New/Go Back to School

This is another example where there are two kinds of people…those who enjoy learning and those who do not. A lot of people look at the 12 years of public school as a marathon that they cross the finish line of sweaty, exhausted, and borderline delirious. Once they are out they are OUT. Some of us run a little further into college, but eventually we crawl feverishly across that threshold as well, glad that it’s over. Then there are those folks that never stop. They have 8 degrees, they take classes online, they attend workshops at the YMCA…they just can’t get enough. That second group of people doesn’t make this resolution because they don’t have to. The first group will never keep the resolution because if they were that sort of person they’d be in the latter group.


3 Read The Bible Through In A Year

I have real issues with this one. Reading…studying…The Word of God should not be an academic, organized, oppressive exercise. If you have to have a schedule to do it and force yourself to maintain that schedule then it is likely that you aren’t going to get much out of your reading. If we would all just shut the computer and the TV off for awhile each day and be lead by The Holy Spirit we would be guided as to what and how much to study. You might chew on a single verse of Scripture for a week, or you might get through all the minor prophets in a weekend. My point is this…don’t rely on a man-made schedule to compel you to mindlessly read what will ultimately be meaningless words. Be lead by The Spirit to engage God’s Word as you would any living, breathing thing. It’s the first step to what we really need to develop anyway…a truly close relationship with Jesus Christ.


2 Get Out of Debt

Depending on which source one believes, somewhere around half of us, give or take a few percent, are in debt of some kind. Credit cards, student loans, medical expenses, mortgages, and car payments take a big chunk out of a lot of folks’ paychecks. And every January people say “This is the year I am gonna pay everything off!!” But inevitably something happens…the car breaks down, the roof needs replaced, the kids get sick, the company downsizes. It’s called life, and oftentimes it isn’t kind. That doesn’t mean we stop trying. Hell no…we get back on that horse and we try again. And I am certainly not advocating wallowing in debt. However, I am also not a big fan of setting yourself up for disappointment and the discouraging feelings of failure that arise when you still owe some major bucks in 365 days. Unlike the previous entrant in this list, getting out of debt does require a plan and a steadfast, almost dispassionate commitment to a firm course of action. That’s why glibly designating it as a New Year’s resolution is a doomed proposition.


1 Lose Weight/Eat Healthier/Exercise

No you’re not. You’re just not. Weigh yourself right now. Weigh yourself again on December 31, 2010. My guess is that you will weigh the same or more, but almost certainly not less. You like to eat. So what?? A couple of years ago I lost 30 pounds. Want to know my secret?? I was in a “skilled” nursing facility, at the age of 33, for 6 months. I don’t really support that plan. And that experience also taught me that having access to tasty food is a gift from God that we shouldn’t dismiss so thoughtlessly. I am not promoting being purposely unhealthy. Don’t let yourself become one of those people on a Richard Simmons special that hasn’t been able to leave home since The Reagan Administration and needs a crane to take the side off their house and transport them to the hospital, like the mother from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? who died and they burnt the house down because that was the easiest way to dispose of the body. But again, if you need an arbitrary date on the calendar to make an empty promise that you are all the sudden…overnight…going to change your unhealthy habits then your chances of success are slim (no pun intended). You will make those changes when you are really motivated and ready, and there is less than a 1% chance of that moment magically occurring on January 1.

Hall of Influence – The Inaugural Class

It didn’t take long to decide who the first inductee into The Hall of Influence should be or to settle on making Him the one and only person in the inaugural class. It would just feel wrong to include any other human being, be it actor or writer or purveyor of the public good, no matter how immense their accomplishments and influence upon my life may be. Sometimes a being is so special, so unique, so remarkable that they deserve the spotlight all to themselves. I can think of no one who fits that description better than Jesus Christ.


He is known by many names…..Jesus of Nazareth, The Alpha &Omega, Messiah, The Son of God, Our Lord & jesus-christ_3153Savior, Lamb of God, and The Way, The Truth, & The Life. Whatever particular verbage one chooses to utilize though cannot possibly capture who He is and what He has meant to the world. I am hesitant to even write about Him because there is no way I can even come close to doing Him justice. But I suppose I’ll give it a whirl.


I am by no means intolerant or arrogant, something that we Christians get accused of often in 21st Century America. However, I’m not a big fan of the term “tolerance” because I believe it to be a politically correct buzzword that means much more than just its surface definition. When folks talk about being “openminded” it often has a subliminal meaning. I consider myself to be pretty flexible and understanding, but on the other hand I believe what I believe and know what I know. Some things are black and white. There is right vs. wrong, good vs. evil. When being openminded in essence means “anything goes” and “whatever feels good do it” then I begin to no longer have an open mind. If that makes me bigoted or insensitive in some peoples’ eyes then so be it. When it’s all said and done I know how things will end.


I was a simple churchgoer for the first 25 years of my life. I sat in Sunday school, I listened politely to the sermons, I sang the songs. But after church…in the 6 ensuing days…I lived life pretty much how I darn well pleased. I think most folks perceive me as a nice guy…friendly, raised by a good family, a lifelong church member. But believe me…I’ve done a lot of things wrong in my life. I’ve done things and acted in ways that I’d be ashamed for anyone to find out about, especially family and friends who have that “good person” perception. There is a vast difference between now and about a decade ago though…..and that difference is Jesus Christ.


I wish I could say that I was one of those that was instantly transformed, that a warm feeling overtook me, a heavenly light glowed, and I have been a perfect person and not done anything wrong since I accepted the free gift of salvation. However, that would be a lie. And to be quite honest, I am not sure that very many people actually see such instantaneous change. The Bible talks about justification and sanctification. In the simplest terms possible justification is that moment when we ask Jesus into our heart and we are washed in the blood of The Lamb, while sanctification is the growth that takes place afterward. The first part is pretty easy and effortless.  It’s the sanctification…the growth…that is a lifelong process. I am learning more and more and it’s becoming clearer every day that the process, if it is to be successful in the long run, requires today’s subject – Jesus Christ.


We live in an interesting world. It’s a world of instant gratification, of having answers to almost anything at our fingertips via the Internet and other technology, of experts (atleast in theory) on almost any subject. Isn’t it odd that many will turn on Oprah every afternoon, bounce from doctor to doctor, keep Barnes & Noble in business by spending loads of cash in the self help section, or try to alter their state of mind through alcohol and drugs, all in an effort to seek elusive answers to complex questions?? I am not casting aspersions on everyone else because I too have been guilty of embarking on fruitless quests for a quick fix. What I have learned though is that even though some of those things aren’t all bad…doctors have their place and occasionally one will find a book with some unique and helpful insight…ultimately there is only one answer to every question, one path to true peace, one entity who will be there without fail and who is more faithful and reliable than the most cherished family member or the closest friend. That answer, that faithful and reliable being, is Jesus Christ.


As I mentioned, I’m still not the person I want to be. I still make mistakes…..daily. But the difference now is that I have the sincerest desire to improve, and also when I do head down the wrong road I know it a lot quicker than I used to. In many cases I realize it almost immediately, or atleast soon enough so that my error in judgment doesn’t actually turn into anything tangible. It’s called the conviction of The Holy Spirit. I am a sincere believer in The Trinity…..the three pronged being of God, Jesus Christ, and The Holy Spirit. The conviction of The Spirit is that little voice inside one’s head…or heart…that says “don’t do that”, “don’t go there”, “this is wrong and you know it”, and various other related messages. It also works in a more proactive way, pushing us toward knowing the right thing and actually doing that right thing, regardless of whether it’s the easy thing (which it usually isn’t). I will never be perfect, but being Christ-like is something I desire and work toward.


The voice, the connection with The Spirit, grows stronger by developing a relationship with Christ. It wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t really understand what that meant. It was just some fancy language that the preacher spouted off about on Sunday morning. But like a lot of the things related to being a Christian it’s really a lot simpler that we realize. Think about your parents and grandparents, your best friends, your co-workers, your spouse, your children…..all of which you have some sort of relationship with. What does having a relationship mean?? A relationship is a significant bond or an emotionally close camaraderie. By definition there is involvement. You know things about one another…..likes, dislikes, desires, what makes someone happy, what makes them sad. You hang out together, spend time together, do things, and engage in activities. That’s what Christ desires with us…a relationship. How do we develop a relationship with Jesus?? Pray, study The Bible, communicate with Him. If you’ve got a problem don’t read your horoscope, write to Dr. Phil, play the lottery, take every newfangled prescription medication that comes down the pike, or visit a psychic. Matthew 7:7 says “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”


Now does that mean that Jesus is Santa Claus and He will grant your every wish?? No. Sometimes we, in our humanity, cannot see the big picture. Satan tempts us with a lot of things that look good, taste good, feel good, and seem…well…good. However, as the old saying goes, looks can be deceiving. The only way we can develop the power of discernment is to have an open line of communication with The Holy Spirit. Communication is a reciprocal process. Too often we don’t develop our relationship with Christ, only calling on Him when we’ve really stepped into something deep and have exhausted all other options. But isn’t it a little selfish to only call on someone infrequently and only when we have no other choice?? I know a lot of polite folks who wouldn’t dream of bothering or using a family member, neighbor, or co-worker like that…..yet many of us don’t hesitate to use The Lord like that without giving it a second thought. I am thankful that He doesn’t treat me like I treat Him sometimes, otherwise I’d be in big trouble. What I am learning as I travel the pathway of life is that it is much better in the long run…and so much more fulfilling…to have an ongoing relationship with Jesus. And I am quite sure He would agree.


I could go on and on, but I won’t. Suffice to say that Jesus should be the most influential person in my life, and that’s coming to fruition more each and every day. Therefore He is far and away the obvious inaugural inductee into The Hall of Influence.



An Introduction to the Fruits of the Spirit

There’s a great bacronym of BIBLE…..Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. It fits.

Now I’m a guy, which means that I typically disdain reading the directions…..but for The Word of God I make an exception. The Bible really is God’s instruction manual and OldWornBible_200x250we’d all be better off if we would follow it as closely as possible. I know that is easier said than done, but that does not mean it isn’t the truth. As The Doorknob says in Alice In Wonderland, “read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction.”

My minister is fond of saying that The Bible is an all-or-nothing proposition… either believe all of it or none of it, you cannot just cherry pick the elements that you like and ignore the parts that are a rather inconvenient hindrance to self-indulgence and an “if it feels good do it” lifestyle. The entire volume is essential…..every verse, chapter, and book. However, I do believe that there are highlights within The Bible, certain stories and passages that stand out, and not by accident. One of those snippets of scripture is Galatians 5:22-23, which says (taking into consideration small variations in translation) “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness (or gentleness), goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (or meekness), self-control (or temperance)”.

I’m not intimidated by studying symbolism, analyzing allegory, translating parable, or interpreting prophecy. The Bible isn’t meant to be an easy read. A breathing organism that is intended for us to incorporate into our daily lives, it needs to be actively studied. But occasionally it’s nice to cut to the chase, to have information imparted in as direct a fashion as possible, for the meaning to be easy and straightforward.  Galatians 5:22-23 is about as clear as clear can be.

What we have in this scripture is a simple laundry list of attributes we as Christians should emulate if we are to, as Romans 8:29 suggests, “be conformed to the image of His Son”. They are qualities that should become part of our character if we take Galatians 2:20 to heart: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” We tend to overanalyze what it means to be “crucified in Christ”, to “be conformed” into a reflection of Jesus. The ideals of Christian faith are so beautiful in their simplicity that we find them difficult to embrace. It seems like the rules should be more burdensome and complex. But what has dawned on me with the wisdom and experience of the years is the fact that the ideas, the foundation, the demands themselves are uncomplicated because the execution of them is so very very tough to successfully pull off. Of course that’s where grace enters the picture.

But I digress. I want to focus on the subject at hand, which is the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness/gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness/meekness, and self-control/temperance. My intention is to look at each one of these individually over the course of time, so stay tuned. The current discussion is designed as an introduction to the larger task.

The first thing that must be said is fairly obvious, but well worth pointing out. These are the fruits of the Spirit…..more specifically The Holy Spirit. In John 14:15-17 Jesus tells the disciples “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever. The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” The Holy Spirit is an often overlooked part of the Trinity, but it shouldn’t be. It’s the part that dwells within us, the part that God left behind to guide us after Jesus ascended into Heaven. These 9 fruits are, or should be, the result of that guidance if we make the choice to pay attention.

So why are these characteristics called fruits?? Think about when you see an apple tree. How do you know it’s an apple tree?? There is evidence there…..the fruit. Without the fruit it’d just be another tree. We have a choice… we want to stand out, make it obvious who we are and what we stand for…..or do we just want to blend in with all the other trees in the forest?? And if we make the choice that we want to stand out, how do we want to do that?? In modern society people do all kinds of bizarre things and come up with increasingly obnoxious ways to celebrate their individuality. But the Word of God has handed to us on a silver platter a set of directions on how to set ourselves apart from the crowd. Why go to all the trouble of piercing and tattooing, listening to loud and unbearably vulgar noise (or what the kids refer to as “music”), poisoning the body with booze and drugs, stepping over anyone and everyone to climb the corporate ladder, or any of the other myriad ways folks draw attention to themselves when what God really wants us to do is be loving, joyful, peaceful, good, kind, gentle, faithful, moderate, and patient?? One other thing to consider about fruit… is generally sweet. Sweetness has been maligned in 21st century America as an undesirable and weak quality. But God doesn’t see it that way. These fruits are the essence of God, and He is allowing us to share in a part of His divine nature by allowing His Holy Spirit to convey these nine divine qualities directly into our soul and personality.

Also to be found in Galatians chapter 5, just before The Fruits of the Spirit are conveyed, there is another laundry list, the antithesis of The Fruits. They are behaviors that God is repulsed by and will cause one to lose that vital relationship. Galatians 5:19-21 says “the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness (or lasciviousness), idolatry, sorcery (or witchcraft), hatred, contentions (or variance), jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions (or emulations), dissensions (or seditions), heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” I may or may not cover each of these individually in the future. However, I believe it is important to mention this passage here. It’s 200908-omag-supermarket-220x312another clear indication of what is expected of us, only it’s saying what we are expected not to do. I don’t like to make assumptions or sweeping generalizations, but I suspect that the average person (like me for example) has engaged in nearly every one of these “works of the flesh”, many on a nearly daily basis. The world we live in, a fallen world where Satan reigns until Christ decides He’s had enough and makes His return, fosters and even encourages these behaviors. In contrast to the difficulty of exhibiting and living according to The Fruits, exhibiting the works of the flesh is easily done. It’s so easy that we engage in these activities without a second thought. Little effort is required to wallow in sin. But again, this is where the pure genius of God, who offers us the free gift of grace through the cleansing power of the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, comes in mighty handy.

I look forward to examining each Fruit of the Spirit individually. It will be an insightful journey, hopefully for both writer and reader.