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Dueling Forces

Whether you accept this premise or not, there are dueling forces that exist on earth.  Previous illustrations have depicted an angel with wings whispering into one ear, with a demon urging individuals to do the exact opposite.  Former atheist C.S. Lewis referred to this invisible tug of war as dualism.  This theological term believes there are two equal and independent powers at the back of everything, one of them good and the other bad, and that this universe is the battlefield in which they fight out an endless war.

But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts], Galatians 5:16.

The apostle Paul applies spiritual elements to dualism in the passage above, revealing the Holy Spirit as the positive force and sinful nature as a series of negative impulses.  The presence of this spiritual battles make appreciating the little things in life difficult.  As soon as your heart is pierced by conviction, minds are bombarded by disparaging thoughts to diminish that which you should be thankful for.  Perhaps, this may explain the apostle Paul’s advice in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 about taking your thoughts captive.

For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do, Galatians 5:17.

One of Satan’s objectives is to turn joyful Christians into cynical souls, void of any excitement, hope or life.  When cold water is poured out over a blazing fire, it does little to extinguish the flames.  However, as steady rains persist like Tropical Storm Florence, drenching tired and weary believers with a deluge of trials, it doesn’t take long for even the strong to become comfortably numb.  In view of this harsh reality, prepare your heart, soul and mind for the powers of darkness, Ephesians 6:12.  Submit to God, resist the Devil and let your faith become rooted in Christ so that future storms won’t hinder your ability to appreciate the little things in life.

by Jay Mankus

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A Spiritual Passport

Twenty five ago I met the criteria to participate in the Canadian PGA Tour Qualifying School at Morningstar International on Vancouver Island.  Upon receiving my letter of acceptance, I set out to obtain my first passport.  Since I had roughly five months to make my travel plans, I wanted to make sure everything was in place before May.  Fortunately, I picked up my passport a week before I flew out to the west coast.

Now He who has made us and prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the [Holy] Spirit as a pledge [a guarantee, a down payment on the fulfillment of His promise], 2 Corinthians 5:5.

Trying to get a passport today is much more complicated, taking a minimum of six weeks, but usually two to three months.  First, you must gather the proper documentation before you apply in person or online.  Documents include a U.S. birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship or  Consular Report of Birth Abroad.  Before a passport can be processed, you must present a photo ID, usually a drivers license, and go to an approved location for a passport photo to be taken.  The final portion involves your travel plans within a country or multiple countries.

So then, being always filled with good courage and confident hope, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight [living our lives in a manner consistent with our confident belief in God’s promises], 2 Corinthians 5:6-7.

The Bible refers to a spiritual passport.  According to the apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit is received by all those who believe and profess that Jesus is Lord.  This invisible passport is like a seal from God, a promise that one day you will be welcomed into the gates of heaven.  However, while you are here on earth, God wants Christians to walk by faith.  When your sight deceives you, place your hope and trust in the promises within the Bible.  Whatever you are going through, don’t forget to apply for your spiritual passport, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Righteous Mirror

The inventor of a silver glass mirror is credited to Justus von Liebig.  This German chemist used a thin layer of metallic silver onto glass through the chemical reduction of silver nitrate.  Prior to 1835, individuals could see their reflection from a still body of water under ideal conditions.  Yet, modern day mirrors enable the human eye to see fine details, revealing flaws and imperfections on your face and body.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God], 1 Corinthians 13:11-12.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul eludes to a righteous mirror.  Paul uses the term sanctifying grace, an ongoing spiritual process necessary to purify souls from sin that manifests itself on earth.  This concept is built upon in Paul’s second letter, 2 Corinthians 5:21.  Despite the reality of disobedient hearts, human error and repetitive mistakes, when God sees human beings, a righteous mirror reflects Christ in our place.

So stand firm and hold your ground, having tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), Ephesians 6:14.

According to the Bible, the Devil uses numerous schemes to take your eyes off of Christ.  When your eyes aren’t fixed upon Jesus, you become vulnerable to Satanic attacks.  These come in the form of subtle temptations, thoughts and whispers that deviate from the Bible.  Thus, its essential to put on the armor of God.  This includes the belt of truth that hold the breastplate of righteous in place.  Just as a catcher in baseball uses a chest protector, Christians should apply the proper equipment.  When you do, you won’t see all your blemishes.  Rather, as you do, God will see the righteous of Jesus, Christ in you.

by Jay Mankus

Demons Can’t Handle the Truth

There are certain expressions, quotes and sayings that have become synonymous with Hollywood films.  Whether its “show me the money” in Jerry Maguire, “how about them apples” via Good Will Hunting or “you can’t handle the truth” from A Few Good Men, these scenes seem to transcend time.  While these classic lines are proclaimed by fictional characters, one of these phrases is a touchy subject for demons.

You believe that God is one; you do well [to believe that]. The demons also believe [that], and shudder and bristle [in awe-filled terror—they have seen His wrath]! – James 2:19

On the surface, demons are spiritual entities associated with the devil and evil.  According to the Bible, one third of the angels in heaven exercised their freewill, backing Lucifer’s plot to exalt himself.  This coup against God the Father was immediately exposed, resulting in their expulsion from heaven.  Upon falling to earth, these fallen angels have aligned themselves with the devil, aka Satan, formerly the archangel Lucifer.  This former angel of song uses a plethora of sneaky methods to hide that which is true.  Corruption, deceit and lies are sown to delay the inevitable, the wrath of God.

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, “Legion”; because many demons had entered him. 31 They continually begged Him not to command them to go into the abyss, Luke 8:30-31.

While Jesus’ earthly brother explains why demons believe and fear God, a first century doctor goes into further details on this subject.  The Bible refers to the abyss as the regions of hell, a bottomless pit, a place of eternal suffering without ceasing.  This fact serves as a clear and present danger for fallen angels.  Demons can’t handle the truth because hell is their eternal destiny.  From their perspective, the more souls they can drag down with them, the better.  In view of this spiritual reality, test everything you hear with the Bible so that half truths will be exposed and the truth will set you free.

by Jay Mankus

You Don’t See That Every Day

As a former athlete, coach and now as a parent, I have participated in and watched some amazing sporting events.  None of these made ESPN’s night top 10 list, but the drama in the game, on the bench and in the stands was intense.  However, what I witnessed yesterday was simply extraordinary.  The scene was at White Clay Creek State Park during a cross country race between 3 division one schools.  This tri-meet included William Penn, Delcastle and St. Georges.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it, 1 Corinthians 9:24.

For anyone not familiar with Delaware, one school is located in the city, another in the suburbs and the newest what use to be considered out in the country.  As competitors crossed the finish line, collapsing and gasping for breath, something unusual began to occur.  A sign of sportsmanship that you don’t see every day or hear about in the news.  At first I had to do I double take as fellow competitors started high fiving and hugging non-teammates.  This scene repeated itself for ten minutes as the slowest runners received the most applause from those already finished.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-2.

These three teams will likely finish at the bottom of the Blue Hen Conference.  None of these runners will contend for the conference, county or state title.  Yet, there is something that these runners demonstrated that all sports should emulate.  Sure, when you add up all the positions, there was one winning team with another starting the season 0-2.  Nonetheless, like the motto for Little League, “its not whether you win or lose, its how you play the game.”  As for the runners from Delcastle, William Penn and St. Georges, good job and thanks for reminding adults how athletic competitions should be contested.

by Jay Mankus

Pushing and Shoving

Pushing and shoving are often associated with a heated argument, fight or skirmish.  When tempers flare, maintaining self-control is a difficult task.  In my half century on earth, I have only been involved in two fights.  While eating lunch in junior high, someone called my name, I stood up and then was blind sided by a punch, dropping to the floor immediately.  A few years later, I was defending a younger neighbor who was black from a high school student who wanted to beat him up.  Although I didn’t want to fight, I stepped in to protect my friend.

But as Jesus went, the people were crowding against Him [almost crushing Him], Luke 8:42b.

The Bible refers to a difficult kind of pushing and shoving.  The passage above would be equivalent to a modern day outdoor rock concert, with fans trying to get as close as possible to their favorite member of a band on stage.  Although its unclear, I’m assuming the disciples served as body guards, attempting to hold the masses back from crushing Jesus.  Nonetheless, these desperate souls did whatever was necessary to touch Jesus while he passed by.

And a woman who had [suffered from] a hemorrhage for twelve years [and had spent all her money on physicians], and could not be healed by anyone, 44 came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His outer robe, and immediately her bleeding stopped, Luke 8:43-44.

When people are hurting, ill or plagued by an unknown condition, there are different levels of urgency.  An initial diagnosis may be cause for concern, but some take no immediate action.  However, as symptoms intensify, hope turns into fear.  The woman in the passage above went from doctor to doctor, spending her life savings without any improvement.  This dire state prompted this woman to push and shove her way through a massive crowd of spectators until Jesus was in reach.  When you reach this point of desperation, cry out to Jesus so that healing and restoration becomes reality.

by Jay Mankus

Greatness Starts at the Bottom

Michael J. Fox starred in the 1987 film the Secret to My Success.  Fox plays Brantley Foster, a college graduate who gets laid off shortly after moving to New York City.  The premise of this movie is based upon the American Dream, starting from the very bottom and moving your way up through a company gradually to the top.  Like most college grads today, Fox found himself overqualified for most positions, but underqualified for the high paying positions.  While fictional in nature, Fox uses a worldly approach to get to the top.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” – Matthew 18:1

During a long walk between towns, the disciples lagged well behind Jesus.  At the back of a long caravan, the disciples began a heated debate on who was the greatest disciple.  While the author fail to address the content of this argument, below are a few likely positions that were taken.  Often brash, Peter begins by saying, “well Jesus did proclaim I am the petra, the rock upon which God will build his church on earth.”  John interrupts, “wait a minute, Jesus also said I am the one whom  he loves the most.”  James, brother of John, jumps into the fray “that’s nice boys, but Jesus called me first.”  When the disciples finally caught up, Jesus addresses this issue.

He called a little child and set him before them, and said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 18:2-3.

The passage above is one of two main passages about the being the greatest in heaven.  Mark 9:35-37 builds upon this concept, suggesting that whoever wants to be the greatest must be a servant to all.  One thing you can say about Jesus is he practiced what he preached.  Despite healing and performing miracles daily, Jesus encouraged these people keep quiet, remaining humble throughout his earthly life.  If you combine these passages, there are two traits to consider.  First, maintain the innocence of a child by emulating your heavenly father.  Second, put the needs and wants of others before yourself.  If you want to be great on earth, start today by serving those in your spheres of influence.

by Jay Mankus

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