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The Father of All Light

Exodus 8 reveals an important lesson about light and life. When King Pharaoh could not explain some of the miracles performed by Aaron and Moses, he sent for magicians who were actually able to duplicate the first two. Moses claimed that enchantments and secret arts allowed these magicians to turn water into blood and call forth frogs from the waters to fill the land. Yet, when these magicians were unable to bring forth gnats or mosquitoes, these men came to the conclusion that this was the finger of God, Exodus 8:18-19.

For such men are false apostles [spurious, counterfeits], deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles (special messengers) of Christ (the Messiah). 14 And it is no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light; 15 So it is not surprising if his servants also masquerade as ministers of righteousness. [But] their end will correspond with their deeds, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.

According to the apostle Paul, Satan possessed similar powers in the first century. Apparently, Lucifer was able to retain some of his archangel abilities as Paul describes him as the ruler of the air, Ephesus 2:2. Just like the Egyptian magicians thousands of years ago, some modern leaders continue to masquerade as spurious counterfeits of faith today. Yet, at some point in time these individuals will be exposed as their hidden agendas and motives will be uncovered by the Father of all Light. Nonetheless, free will provides the power hungry with an excuse to see how much they can get away with in the darkness.

Every good gift and every perfect ([d]free, large, full) gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of all [that gives] light, in [the shining of] Whom there can be no variation [rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [as in an eclipse], James 1:17.

When you grow up with a big brother who is perfect, you start to follow him around to find out the secret of his success. Apparently, James likely spied on Jesus while He was praying with His heavenly Father. While he may not have gotten as close as he wanted to hear every word spoken, James came to the conclusion that the Father of Light is what made Jesus who He was. Sharing eyewitness testimony, James wants every first century Christian to know that it is the God of heaven who is the giver of all good things. There is no doubt about it so don’t be deceived by luck, chance or coincidences.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming Spiritual Mood Swings

Mood swings are an abrupt and apparently unaccountable change in an individual’s mood. From time to time, there are logical and rationale reasons to explain these emotional swings. Women may blame that time of the month while men might point to a personal matter. Nonetheless, Christians are called to higher standards in Matthew 5:43-48. According to one of Jesus’ disciples, trusting in the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:3-4 helps overcome spiritual mood swings.

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it. 18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger appeases contention. 19 The way of the sluggard is overgrown with thorns [it pricks, lacerates, and entangles him], but the way of the righteous is plain and raised like a highway, Proverbs 15:17-19.

King Solomon points to a trait passed on to him by his father David, 1 Samuel 16:7. While the world often uses physical appearances and traits as a means to determine greatness, God looks at the heart. Unfortunately, even men and women with a heart for God have inner demons. Some fall prey to anger which can trigger a mood swing with just one word. As someone who had my own anger management issues in the past, learning to control emotional outbursts is no easy matter.

Because of the hope [of experiencing what is] laid up ([d]reserved and waiting) for you in heaven. Of this [hope] you heard in the past in the message of the truth of the Gospel, Which has come to you. Indeed, in the whole world [that Gospel] is bearing fruit and still is growing [e][by its own inherent power], even as it has done among yourselves ever since the day you first heard and came to know and understand the grace of God in truth. [You came to know the grace or undeserved favor of God in reality, deeply and clearly and thoroughly, becoming accurately and intimately acquainted with it,] Colossians 1:5-6.

According to the apostle Paul, grasping God’s grace is the best place to start. Emotional mood swings are usually followed by conviction, guilt, shame or a combination of these three. Once the fireworks of your mood swing have come to an end, there is a brief moment where grace can come to the rescue. If you haven’t reached rock bottom like the prodigal son, common sense may not be regained for days, weeks, months or years. Yet, when the Father’s love shines through, controlling spiritual mood swings is possible.

by Jay Mankus

Do Not Mix Snobbery with Faith

In this age of politics, if a representative does not hold a liberal or progressive view, these individuals are immediately called and labeled racists by the mainstream media. Meanwhile, the political leaders doing the name calling have stopped serving the people they claim to represent by paying homage to campaign donors and lobbyists. One of the only things worse than this is mixing snobbery with faith.

My brethren, pay no servile regard to people [show no prejudice, no partiality]. Do not [attempt to] hold and practice the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ [the Lord] of glory [together with snobbery]! – James 2:1

Jesus is painfully honest of his expectations for Christians in Matthew 5:43-48. Yet, as I study the Bible, I find Jesus more frustrated by religious leaders than anyone else. Sure, there is plenty of blame to pass around as everyone has failed to live up to God’s standards, Romans 3:9-12. Nonetheless, Jesus was irritated by religious zealots who confused religion with faith, Mark 2:25-27.

For if a person comes into your congregation whose hands are adorned with gold rings and who is wearing splendid apparel, and also a poor [man] in shabby clothes comes in, And you pay special attention to the one who wears the splendid clothes and say to him, Sit here in this preferable seat! while you tell the poor [man], Stand there! or, Sit there on the floor at my feet! – James 2:2-3.

The book definition of snob is a person with an exaggerated respect for high social positions or wealth who seeks to associate with social superiors and dislikes people or activities regarded as lower-class. The earthly brother of Jesus points out discrimination that was occurring in first century churches. The wealthy were given preferential treatment while the poor became social outcasts. When the concept of loving all your neighbors is absent, modern-day Christians mix snobbery with faith. Listen, learn and love!

by Jay Mankus

The Connection Between Faithfulness and Fruitfulness

From the time human beings are born into this world, there is an internal desire to want satisfaction. Subsequently, infants naturally cry and eventually proclaim “I want, I want, I want.” Some adults don’t grow out of or lose this selfish behavior. Thus, many Christians go through life wondering why they aren’t as productive and successful as they think they should be. This is where the connection between faithfulness and fruitfulness comes into play.

If you will listen diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, being watchful to do all His commandments which I command you this day, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you heed the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your beasts, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock, Deuteronomy 28:1-4.

As he was about to retire as Israel’s spiritual leader, passing the torch on to Joshua, Moses felt compelled to reveal the connection between faithfulness and fruitfulness. Moses devotes an entire chapter of the Bible to blessings and curses. During his farewell address, Moses compares the choices individuals make to life and death, Deuteronomy 30:11-18. Choosing obedience by being faithful to the commands in the Bible results in blessings. Yet, if you forget God’s advice by doing what’s right in your own eyes, your life will be filled with anguish, heartache and painful remorse.

Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken-off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned, John 15:4-6.

Whatever decisions you have made in life, remember the words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:19-23. This cry for help reveals a God of second chances. In the passage above, Jesus reveals another connection between faithfulness and fruitfulness. God is like a gardener who prunes human beings to stimulate spiritual growth. Yet, unless you remain within the Vine which is Jesus, you are unable to bear fruit. Staying connected to Jesus throughout life demonstrates faithfulness and yields spiritual fruit.

by Jay Mankus

Who Deserves the Credit?

Depending upon who your reliable source may be in life, credit and praise is assigned to various individuals and or forces. The superstitious tend to lean to luck for someone’s good fortune. Scientists may point others to random selection to explain earthly blessings. As an aspiring screen writer, Hollywood refers to the Universe falling right into place to account for unexpected gifts. Yet, the earthly brother of Jesus points first century Christians toward who really deserves the credit.

Every good gift and every perfect ([d]free, large, full) gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of all [that gives] light, in [the shining of] Whom there can be no variation [rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [as in an eclipse]m James 1:17.

When I was in high school, one of my close golfing friend Chris always seemed to get good breaks while on the golf course. Whether it was skipping his golf ball over the water, going through a tree or receiving a friendly bounce off the cart path, his string of luck never seemed to end. One of our teammates, Steve, attributed this to the luck of the Irish. Since Chris’ family was Irish Catholic, it made sense to me at the time. This belief continued until I began to read the Bible in college.

And it was of His own [free] will that He gave us birth [as sons] by [His] Word of Truth, so that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures [a sample of what He created to be consecrated to Himself], James 1:18.

One New Testament author refers to daily encounters with angels that go unnoticed, Hebrews 13:2. A Psalmist points to guardian angels who guide and protect human beings every day, Psalm 91:11. The apostle Paul writes about an invisible force that you can actually keep in step with, Galatians 5:25. Meanwhile, Moses speaks of blessings and curses that will come upon you based upon your degree of obedience, Deuteronomy 28. When you put this all together with the passages above, God deserves the credit for being the giver of all good things in life.

by Jay Mankus

Is an Intervention Necessary in 2022?

Every family has at least one member who looks like they are about to lose it. Perhaps, this individual’s name came up during private conversations over the holidays. Maybe this name has become a punch line for “did you hear what Uncle Larry did this time? Yet, you’ve been concerned for a while, but haven’t had the guts to come out and say it. If you’re slightly convicted about any of the following, maybe 2022 is the perfect time for an intervention.

Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one. 14 But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). 15 Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death, James 1:13-15.

As a former coach and teachable, it’s hard to watch one of your prized pupils self destruct. While there may be a few moments when you are able to stop the bleeding so to speak, if someone doesn’t want to change this free fall will continue. Sometimes friends and or parents may enable certain behaviors, hoping that the person in need will simply grow out of this phase. If nothing changes for the better, prayer and intervention may be your only two remaining options.

Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands [who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm], take heed lest he fall [into sin]. 13 For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not [b]adjusted and [c]adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to [d]a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently, 1 Corinthians 10:12-13.

An intervention is the act of interfering with the outcome or course especially if a serious condition exists. In the passage above, the apostle Paul refers to a way out of temptation. Yet, when individuals are enticed and baited by lustful passions, they are not looking for a way out. Subsequently, this is where Christian leaders must come side by side those who are fighting a losing battle. Any successful intervention begins with a mature believer helping the lost find the way out of temptation. If this situation arises in your life, this year is the time to act and intervene.

by Jay Mankus

Welcome the Word of God in 2022

If you have children or received any sort of electronic gift for Christmas, you will find instructions enclosed inside. This manual is designed to show you how to put this gift together if not already assembled and how to use it. The best selling book of all time does not contain instructions in the beginning. Rather, the Bible uses history to illustrate how to and how not to live your life. If you’re stuck in a rut or tired of not being able to turn your life around, welcome the Word of God in 2022 to jump start this new year.

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. 22 But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth], James 1:21-22.

According to the passage above, Jesus’ earthly brother made an important connection between the Bible and this spiritual leader. When Joshua took over for Moses to lead Israel into God’s promised land, one of his first commands was to meditate upon God’s Word daily. If this practice results in the spiritual discipline of Bible Study, these truths will become implanted within your mind. Meanwhile, anyone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness will began to develop a heart for God.

For if anyone only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror; 24 For he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like. 25 But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience), James 1:23-25.

Yet, whenever you read any book, you have two choices. Are you the type of person who loves plowing through book after book eager to discover the next one? Or do you savor each page, stopping to write down notes as you read so you don’t forget an important insight, lesson or point? At the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls his audience to become doers of the Word, not just listeners. Anyone can read the Bible, but those who are convicted to turn their life around will welcome the Word of God in 2022.

by Jay Mankus

The Everlasting Agreement

There are various forms of agreements that you will make over the course of your life. This may be a handshake between friends, a business deal, a pledge you make to a local church or charity or a mutual consensus. Unfortunately, some of these agreements are temporary, contain escape clauses or are broken by someone who feels like they got the short end of the stick.

Now may the God of peace [Who is the Author and the Giver of peace], Who brought again from among the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood [that sealed, ratified] the everlasting agreement (covenant, testament), Hebrews 13:20.

The phrase “all good things must come to an end” comes from a medieval poet. The origin of this expression was first written by Geoffry Chaucer in Canterbury Tales. While this is true in the context of life and death, the Bible speaks of an everlasting agreement. The apostle Paul uses the analogy of receiving a gift in Romans 6:23. However, the key is accepting this free gift as your own by taking ownership of it.

And this is that testimony (that evidence): God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who possesses the Son has that life; he who does not possess the Son of God does not have that life. 13 I write this to you who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) the name of the Son of God [in [c]the peculiar services and blessings conferred by Him on men], so that you may know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have life, [d]yes, eternal life, 1 John 5:11-13.

First century Christians referred to this everlasting agreement as the gift of eternal life, John 3:16-17. In the passage above, one of Jesus’ disciples believed that you could know for sure about your eternal destiny. There was no hopefully or maybe, but an absolute guarantee based upon your belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-11. As 2022 begins this week, make sure you secure this everlasting agreement.

by Jay Mankus

Humble Beginnings

King Solomon was the first to state what many people tend to think following an epic collapse or fall from grace in Proverbs 16:18. Pride does call before the fall and results in a reboot or as the Bible suggests a humble beginning. No one likes to start over. Whether this refers to a job, life or video game, being forced to turn the clocks back and start from scratch can be deflating. Yet, humility puts life into its proper perspective.

Let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his elevation [as a Christian, called to the true riches and to be an heir of God], 10 And the rich [person ought to glory] in being humbled [by being shown his human frailty], because like the flower of the grass he will pass away, James 1:9-10.

One Old Testament prophet writes about the nature of death in Isaiah 40:8. Each spring flowers bloom, grass grows and trees become covered by leaves. Unfortunately, by the end of fall, lawns become dormant, leaves fall to the earth and flowers disappear for the year until this cycle repeats itself annually. If you own a house or maintain a property, keeping up weekly maintenance can lead to humble beginnings.

For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled, bewildered]. I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe [[b]which my moral instinct condemns]. 16 Now if I do [habitually] what is contrary to my desire, [that means that] I acknowledge and agree that the Law is good (morally excellent) and that I take sides with it. 17 However, it is no longer I who do the deed, but the sin [principle] which is at home in me and has possession of me, Romans 7:15-17.

Yet, beneath the surface of every human being, there lies an internal battle that never ends. The apostle Paul writes about this wrestling match in the passage above. Whenever you discover that you’ve become a hypocrite, doing the exact opposite that you want, conviction, guilt and humility will follow. In this age of mental health awareness, your own sinful nature is often the source of your problems. Therefore, the next time you mess up, use this humble beginning as a teachable moment to rise from the ashes of despair.

by Jay Mankus

The First Fruits of a New Year

The concept of biblical first fruits is one of those things I always struggled to visualize. First fruits is introduced in Genesis 4 where two brothers are called by God to give an offering up to the Lord. Since Cain was a farmer and food takes time to grow, he was hesitant to give God the best crops that he just picked. Meanwhile, Abel was a shepherd and offered up his very best sheep to the Lord. Abel gave his first fruit of the year believing God would provide in the future, but Cain held back food, doubting God.

And [we obligate ourselves] to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the first of all the fruit of all trees year by year to the house of the Lord, 36 As well as the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as is written in the Law, and the firstlings of our herds and flocks, to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in [His] house. 37 And we shall bring the first and best of our coarse meal, our contributions, the fruit of all kinds of trees, of new wine, and of oil to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God. And we shall bring the tithes from our ground to the Levites, for they, the Levites, collect the tithes in all our rural towns, Nehemiah 10:35-37.

Nehemiah was living in exile, serving as bodyguard for the king of Persia. One day a messenger sent word to Nehemiah that the wall of Jerusalem had been broken and the gates were on fire. This devastating news stirred Nehemiah’s heart, inspiring an extended period of fasting and prayer. Following this time of mourning, God gave Nehemiah a vision and plan to repair and rebuild the wall. The passage above serves as a celebration to give first fruits to the Lord as the wall surrounding Jerusalem was completed.

And it was of His own [free] will that He gave us birth [as sons] by [His] Word of Truth, so that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures [a sample of what He created to be consecrated to Himself], James 1:18.

The earthly brother of James provides a modern interpretation of first fruits. Instead of offering up a sacrifice similar to that of the Old Testament, our lives should be a demonstration that we’re serve a living God. As you read and study the Bible today, you should be inspired to live out your faith like Jesus, Romans 10:17. Colossians 3:17 and 23 provide a call to action. “Whatever you do, whether in action or words, do this all in the name of Jesus” as a first fruits offering in this new year.

by Jay Mankus

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