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A Simple Confession Can Change the World

The word confession is found six times in the Kings James Version of the Bible. Confession is the act of acceptance, taking responsibility for a wrong act, behavior or deed. This public acknowledgement owns up to something that you’re embarrassed to admit. Fueled by conviction and guilt, a simple confession by a young man inside a church in Great Britain sparked the first Great Awakening.

Beloved, do not put faith in every spirit, but prove (test) the spirits to discover whether they proceed from God; for many false prophets have gone forth into the world. By this you may know (perceive and recognize) the Spirit of God: every spirit which acknowledges and confesses [the fact] that Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [actually] has become man and has come in the flesh is of God [has God for its source]; 1 John 4:1-2.

According to one of Jesus’ disciples, genuine confession is a direct sign of God’s presence working inside a human heart. As a member of Jesus’ inner circle, John witnessed love in action for three straight years. When most of his follower’s abandoned him on the first Good Friday, Jesus replied, “forgive them for they know not what they do,” Luke 23:34. These remarks followed by Jesus’ resurrection changed the world forever.

And the prayer [that is] of faith will save him who is sick, and the Lord will restore him; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working], James 5:15-16.

In the passage above, one of Jesus’ earthly brother’s chimes in as well. According to first century historians, James did not believe his own brother was the Messiah until Jesus rose from the death. Haunted by his own unbelief, James pours out his heart about the importance of confession. Two thousands years later, the earth has gone through a series of changes. Yet, one thing endures: a simple confession can still change the world.

by Jay Mankus

When a Feeling Passes

The American rock band Boston released More than a Feeling as the lead single from their Eponymous debut album in 1976. According to Tom Scholz who wrote this classic ballad, this song was inspired by a fantasy event, dreaming of his days with Marianne. When you’re having a bad day, a positive dream that comes out of nowhere often provides hope. Yet, when dreams don’t come true, feelings of optimism fade away leaving behind doubt and emptiness.

[Oh, I know, I have been rash to talk out plainly this way to God!] I will [in my thinking] stand upon my post of observation and station myself on the tower or fortress, and will watch to see what He will say within me and what answer I will make [as His mouthpiece] to the perplexities of my complaint against Him, Habakkuk 2:1.

I have a bad habit of reading too much into conversations and personal encounters. When I am unable to clarify or understand someone’s intent, senses often turn into feelings. If a co-worker is around, I’ll double check to see if my instincts are correct. Unfortunately, most of the time, my gut reaction to a situation doesn’t consider all the variables that exist. Thus, when my feeling passes, what I see isn’t reality.

And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by. For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfillment]; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day, Habakkuk 2:2-3.

The Old Testament places a high priority on vision. Instead of going through life chasing after feelings, the Bible urges it’s readers to become vision oriented. The prophet Hosea claims that people perish when they go through life without knowledge of a clear vision. When a feeling passes, where to go or what to do is uncertain. If you want to live with a clear purpose and reason, ask the Lord for vision so that this can be engraved within your heart.

by Jay Mankus

At the Intersection of Success and Failure

C.S. Lewis was a well educated atheist who sought out to prove that God does not exist. Some might say that this quest ended in failure as Lewis went on to accept Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord. This journey to disprove God altered Lewis’ career path in life as he became a famous author and theologian. Prior to his death in 1898, Lewis left behind a series of famous quotes. My two personal favorites are “It is not your business to succeed, but to do right. When you have done so the rest lies with God.” The second comes from Mere Christianity, “success if the process of arriving.”

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

The latter quote suggests that one must fail several times before you draw near to success. For example, if you play baseball, failing to get a hit in 7 out of 10 plate appearances is considered good. The current average batting average in Major League Baseball in 2021 is 220. This means that most professional hitters are failing nearly 80% of the time. If you combine this lack of success with local weather forecasters who tend to get their daily predictions right once or twice a week, Americans are surrounded by failure.

Nevertheless, God was not pleased with the great majority of them, for they were overthrown and strewn down along [the ground] in the wilderness. Now these things are examples (warnings and admonitions) for us not to desire or crave or covet or lust after evil and carnal things as they did, 1 Corinthians 10:5-6.

The apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter to remind the Corinthian Church of Israel’s failures. These past errors, mistakes and sins serve as lessons from the past. As I drive around to various places, my photographic memory often triggers a collection of memories within my mind. Yet, as I pass a little league field and two vacated churches, the pain of a defunct baseball league and closed churches hit home. Am I failure because I wasn’t able to save these three organizations or was it God’s will for these things to come to an end? When you’re surrounded by failure, it’s hard to press on. Yet, when you are weak, Christ is strong, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, so with God I go on.

by Jay Mankus

Pharmakia

The Greek word pharmakia appears five times in the New Testament. Outside of the book of Revelation, the only other reference of pharmakia occurs in the passage below. Pharmakia is where we derive the English term pharmacy. However, this word can also refer to sorcery and witchcraft. What the apostle Paul is trying to express in the acts of the sinful nature is that human bodies can come under the influence of a foreign spirit such as wine or a demonic entity.

Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), Galatians 5:20.

In the passage below, one of Jesus’ disciples has a vision of the future. This image narrows in on what will happen in the last days on the earth. According to John, there will be a lack of personal responsibility. Instead of confessing sins, people will choose to justify and rationalize their own actions. This form of denial is similar to an individual under the influence of a drug who is not in their right mind.

And the rest of humanity who were not killed by these plagues even then did not repent of [the worship of] the works of their [own] hands, so as to cease paying homage to the demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor move. 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their practice of magic (sorceries) or their sexual vice or their thefts, Revelation 9:20-21.

If Satan can appear as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, what you see can be deceiving. The term sober is found 12 times in the Bible. If your mind is affected by some form of pharmakia, your decision making will be impaired. Therefore, if you want to overcome the various temptations which lurk around every corner in life, being sober is essential. Despite laws to legalize marijuana, a gateway drug, be sober so that you can take your stand against future Satanic schemes, Ephesians 6:12.

by Jay Mankus

Understanding the Seasons of Change

According to Genesis 2:4-6, the earth’s atmosphere was initially like an open canopy. According to Moses, underground springs bubbled up from beneath the surface to water the earth. Prior to the flood, there was only one season with a tropical climate similar to a greenhouse effect. Before the heavens opened up to bring rain for the first time, the springs of the earth burst forth, Genesis 7:11. This passage suggests some sort of enormous volcanic eruption like the super volcano in Yellowstone National Park. As massive clouds of volcanic ash blocked out the sun, the first age began, setting in motion the four seasons that exist today.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted, A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up,A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, Ecclesiastes 3:1-4.

King Solomon provides a famous analogy about seasons of change in the passage above. Just as winter gives way to spring, spring introduces summer before summer fades to fall, the cycle is completed by a return to winter. Solomon refers to specific events that take place every year and throughout your life. Ecclesiastes 3:11 suggests that there is a time and place for everything. According to Solomon, God makes everything beautiful in His time as healing allows broken souls to mend and recover. Yet, for anyone undergoing an extremely difficult period in their life, understanding the seasons of change takes time.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:1-2.

If discovering God’s will for your life can take a couple of decades, discerning the seasons of change involves deep thought and reflection. You may want to pursue a specific career or dream, but when failure causes you to change course, figuring out where to go next takes time. I still remember when I felt God calling me to become a golf professional, then a youth pastor followed by a Bible teacher and golf coach. Each time I thought, surely this is God’s will for my life until the seasons of change left me unemployed. One New Testament author gives great advice for understanding the seasons of change in Hebrews 12:1. If you treat life like a marathon, you have to push through the pain to run with perseverance so when the seasons do change, you’ll be ready to adjust and move on.

by Jay Mankus

An Unlikely War Hero

The 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge was based upon a World War II American Army Medic named Desmond Doss. Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Desmond was a hillbilly from Lynchburg, Virginia. While donating blood at a nearby hospital, Desmond met a cute nurse who became the love of his life. Despite his desire to get married, as lines at local recruiting centers continued to form, Desmond followed his calling to enlist.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

While Desmond thought he was signing up to become an Army medic, he was placed in an infantry with the expectation of becoming a soldier. As a devout Seventh Day Adventist, who was raised to keep the Sabbath and keep his vow to never kill, Desmond found himself in the middle of a moral dilemma. When Desmond verbalized his convictions to his commanding officer, this didn’t go over to well with the rest of his squadron.

No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends, John 15:13.

Until the Battle of Okinawa, Desmond Doss was considered the weak link. However, as his fellow soldiers fell to the ground, wounded one after the other, Desmond’s instincts kicked in. Before this battle was over, Desmond became a real life Forrest Gump, retrieving and saving the lives of 75 injured soldiers. Desmond’s act of bravery was rewarded by becoming the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot. May Desmond’s story inspire you to hold fast to your convictions so that you’ll be prepared to follow God’s calling.

by Jay Mankus

When Satan Hinders and Impedes Your Spiritual Progress

Every day a new set of obstacles arise with the sun. Some of these challenges are recognizable, allowing individuals to easily side step these obstructions. Unfortunately, many of these impediments will come as complete surprises, catching the average citizen off guard and unprepared for what lies ahead for the future. Thus, when the sunsets to end your day, many are left scratching their head mumbling, “how did this happen and why?”

But since we were bereft of you, brethren, for a little while in person, [of course] not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great longing to see you face to face,18 Because it was our will to come to you. [I mean that] I, Paul, again and again [wanted to come], but Satan hindered and impeded us, 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18.

In the first century, the apostle Paul didn’t believe in bad luck. Rather, when strange things started to happen to hinder and impede his most recent missionary journey, Paul blamed Satan. When your spiritual opponent is able to masquerade as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14, faith must be elevated. If the enemy is the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, it time to start fighting back with spiritual weapons, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour, 1 Peter 5:7-8.

One of Jesus’ disciples shares his own recollection of Satan’s attacks. As Peter was about to celebrate a victorious moment in his life, Matthew 16:16-18, a few moments later everything changed. Peter goes from a spiritual hero to being accused of being on Satan’s side, Matthew 16:22-23. When Satan hinders or impedes your spiritual progress, it’s essential that you take your thoughts captive. Just as Jesus used fasting and prayer to overcome temptation, Matthew 4:1-11, be vigilant so you can withstand the next spiritual attack that you’ll face. When you draw near to God, the Devil flees, James 4:7.

by Jay Mankus

Engaged and Energized

While engagement is often associated with the process leading up to marriage, to be engaged refers to an active, engrossed and involved state. I’ve never thought of prayer in the context of being engaged. However, when the apostle Paul found an isolated spot to pray, Mark 1:35, his concentration was fixated on God. Paul wasn’t just hoping and wishing for an answer to prayer, he expected God to perform a miracle.

We are ever giving thanks to God for all of you, continually mentioning [you when engaged] in our prayers, 1 Thessalonians 1:2.

One verse later, Paul refers to being energized by faith. As Christians begin to pray with an unceasing desire, this is often accompanied with a sudden boost of energy. When you add and incorporate promises in the Bible to prayer, faith is strengthened. Prayer is an act of putting the needs of others before yourself as you pour out your heart to God. When prayer becomes a daily habit, a spirit of service is conceived.

Recalling unceasingly before our God and Father your work energized by faith and service motivated by love and unwavering hope in [the return of] our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), 1 Thessalonians 1:3.

In the first century, there was a belief that Jesus would return in their own lifetime. For those individuals who witnessed Jesus rise from the dead, there was a sense of urgency to seize each day on earth, Galatians 6:9-10. This is the motivation that the apostle Paul refers to in the passage above. If you want to make the most of your life on earth, engage yourself in prayer so that your faith is energized to keep on serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Under Construction

Depending upon the city, state or region you live in, summer time commences a season of construction. If these projects are out sourced to private businesses, construction is usually completed on time or ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, the state of Delaware usually takes a few years to start and another five years to finish what should have taken a year or two at most.

For which of you, wishing to build a farm building, does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it? – Luke 14:28

A first century doctor overhears a conversation between Jesus and Pharisees. The parable above occurs at the end of this discussion. The context of this passage refers to the high expectations that Jesus has for his disciples. Before starting any new project, Jesus wants his followers to consider the cost before jumping in head first. If you want to finish what you start in this life, it’s okay to say no.

Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to complete [the building], all who see it will begin to mock and jeer at him, 30 Saying, This man began to build and was not able (worth enough) to finish, Luke 14:29-30.

In their song Local Construction, Reliant K compares areas of your life that are never done to local construction. When I was a student, it always took me twice as long to complete a homework assignment than my friends. Sometimes this was because I didn’t know what I was doing and on other occasions, what I was learning didn’t click initially. There are certain things in life that are never done despite how hard you work on it. Since something in your life or in your community is always under construction, consider the cost you before you commit to your next project in life.

by Jay Mankus

Radical Grace Theory

Critical Race Theory is analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour. This philosophy began in the 1970, but officially was organized in 1989 at the first annual Workshop on Critical Race Theory. Today, you will find curriculum for Critical Race Theory in businesses, colleges, and public education.

[In this new creation all distinctions vanish.] There is no room for and there can be neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, [nor difference between nations whether alien] barbarians or Scythians [who are the most savage of all], nor slave or free man; but Christ is all and in all [everything and everywhere, to all men, without distinction of person], Colossians 3:11.

While there will always be isolated pockets of racism in any city, state or nation, pushing Critical Race Theory endangers Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s dream and vision for America. Quoting his 1963 speech, Dr. King longed for a day when his “four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Since Critical Race Theory stresses victimology rather than personal responsibility, character has been de-emphasized by this movement.

In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off]. Notice, it is I, Paul, who tells you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no profit (advantage, avail) to you [[a]for if you distrust Him, you can gain nothing from Him], Galatians 5:1-2.

The weakness of Critical Race Theory is that it takes God and faith out of the equation. If you listen to Dr. King, one of his most famous quotes is, “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.” Perhaps, Martin was referring to one of the two Bible passages listed above. Part of the apostles teaching in the first century includes a church body where all distinctions vanish. As people enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, radical grace transforms individuals to become color blind. This is the radical grace theory that all nations should embrace and practice.

by Jay Mankus

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