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Reaching a Point Where You Can Come and Go Freely

Anytime a child leaves home for college or a new job, a true sense of independence is realized. Unless you have a roommate, for the first time in life aspiring students don’t have anyone to tell them when to come or go. This freedom can be liberating with the whole world ready for you to explore. While the mature will be able to handle this, there are many college students and young adults who experience their own version of the prodigal son or daughter.

Jesus used this parable (illustration) with them, but they did not understand what He was talking about.So Jesus said again, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that I Myself am the Door [a]for the sheep, John 10:6-7.

While the passage above isn’t the parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus provides the Bible’s version of the Motel 6 slogan. Instead of saying, “we’ll leave the light on for you,” Jesus introduces his open door policy for his followers. Referring to Himself as the Door, Jesus is the way to heaven. Unfortunately, countless individuals look for an alternate route, trying to find a back or side entrance. This invitation isn’t forced, but Jesus encourages his sheep to come and go as they please.

All others who came [as such] before Me are thieves and robbers, but the [true] sheep did not listen to and obey them. I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture, John 10:8-9.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee in life. Jesus uses a hypothetical scenario of thieves and robbers who will disrupt your life. During these exchanges, you may have valuable possessions stolen from your car, house or place of work. This is what happens when sheep venture outside of God’s pen. Freewill allows any Christian to come and go as they wish. No one is forcing you to go to church, pray or read the Bible. Yet, if you want to experience the abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10, listen to and obey the Shepherd. Then you will reach a point where you can come and go about life freely.

by Jay Mankus

When You’re Just Not Good Enough

When I left my position as a full time youth director Indiana 27 years ago, I wasn’t sure of what to do or where to go. The months that followed were a blur until a served on a Walk to Emmaus Retreat. Since I was in the kitchen, I didn’t have much interaction until a clown presentation gave me a clear direction of my next step. After proposing to Leanne, God called me to play professional golf in a vision the next day.

But the Scriptures [picture all mankind as sinners] shut up and imprisoned by sin, so that [the inheritance, blessing] which was promised through faith in Jesus Christ (the Messiah) might be given (released, delivered, and committed) to [all] those who believe [who adhere to and trust in and rely on Him], Galatians 3:22.

Subsequently, I spent the rest of 1994 and the first six months of 1995 pursuing this dream. After lowering my handicap to a 2, I joined the Tommy Armour Tour in Florida and received an invitation to the PGA Qualifying School on the Canadian Tour in British Columbia. Despite determination, dedication and discipline, I couldn’t put 9 holes together, let alone 18. While it was hard to admit, I simply wasn’t good enough.

Now before the faith came, we were perpetually guarded under the Law, kept in custody in preparation for the faith that was destined to be revealed (unveiled, disclosed), 24 So that the Law served [a][to us Jews] as our trainer [our guardian, our guide to Christ, to lead us] until Christ [came], that we might be justified (declared righteous, put in right standing with God) by and through faith, Galatians 3:23-24.

The Bible sends a similar message whether human beings like it or not. No matter how hard you try to be perfect as suggested in Matthew 5:48, a generational condition will prevent you from doing the right thing all the time, Deuteronomy 24:16. According to Exodus 34:7, the sins of a father is passed down to as many as four generations. Therefore, anytime you seek to pursue perfection, the human condition just isn’t good enough. Yet, it’s this spiritual state that makes everyone in desperate need of a Savior.

by Jay Mankus

Maintaining a Clear Perspective While Coping with Grief

I’ve never dealt well with funerals. I have a hard enough time of thinking of what to say on a normal day let alone trying to console grieving family members. One of the best words of advice I’ve ever received is to never say “I know how you feel..” Rather, the best thing you can do for a grieving individual is give them a hug and reply “when you’re ready to talk, I’m all ears.” Yet, no human advice can replace the wisdom found in the Bible,

The Lord is building up Jerusalem; He is gathering together the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [curing their pains and their sorrows], Psalm 147:2-3.

The Psalmist refers to dark times in the history of Israel. Due to a lack of disobedience, God allowed this nation to be conquered by the Assyrians and Babylonians. The Old Testament speaks of these periods as living in exile as many were taken from and forced to live in these two different countries. In the passage above, the exile lead to a broken heart as the Psalmist struggled to accept why God let this happen.

Then I heard a mighty voice from the throne and I perceived its distinct words, saying, See! The abode of God is with men, and He will live (encamp, tent) among them; and they shall be His people, and God shall personally be with them and be their God. God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away, Revelation 21:3-4.

Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ disciples provides an eternal perspective of the future. Dealing with adversity, hardship and pain is not a pleasant experience. The best way to maintain a clear perspective while coping with grief is to see life on earth as temporary. According to John, when Christians enter eternal life in heaven, God will wipe away all of our tears. Therefore, while the present may be filled with disappointment and pain, lean on the Holy Spirit to get you through the grieving process of death.

by Jay Mankus

The Struggle to Conform to God’s Will

Have you ever wondered, “why is it so hard to find your place in this world?” While you may have discovered your spiritual gift, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, finding the ideal position where you can flourish is no small task. If you are blessed to be able to actually do what you love, there is still one thing to consider. Are you serving the Lord with your God given talents or do you find yourself struggling to conform with God’s will?

Concerning this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull in your [spiritual] hearing and sluggish [even [f]slothful in achieving spiritual insight]. 12 For even though by this time you ought to be teaching others, you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God’s Word. You have come to need milk, not solid food, Hebrews 5:11-12.

According to one biblical author, struggling to conform to God’s will is a sign of spiritual immaturity. From a psychological perspective, Abraham Maslow suggests that there are certain basic needs that haven’t been met or fulfilled. Subsequently, most people go throughout life without reaching what Maslow calls self-realization. The apostle Paul provides an alternative view based upon developing the mindset of offering your body as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1.

For everyone who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action), for he is a mere infant [not able to talk yet]! 14 But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law, Hebrews 5:13-14.

Paul’s teaching compliments the passage above. When you struggle to conform with God’s will, one of three issues is likely present. Either you’re not living a purpose driven life, your thoughts tend to dwell on the sinful nature rather than the Holy Spirit or spiritual action and deeds are missing from your faith. Similar to the message Jesus shares with the Pharisees in Matthew 9:10-13, the spiritual healthy are able to take care of themselves by conforming to God’s will. The sick and sinners need a spiritual doctor to show them the way, Romans 12:2.

by Jay Mankus

When Believing Leads to Belonging

From the earliest days on earth, children tend to become like a sponge, soaking up everything they see and hear. When what adolescents come to believe deviates from the Bible, this is defined as an ungodly belief. In the film Rudy, following the death of his best friend, Rudy goes to a bus stop, about to leave for Notre Dame to follow his childhood dream. Afraid his son is about to make a big mistake, Rudy’s father tries to talk him out of going. Within the attached scene, Rudy is told about the limitations of the Ruettiger family lineage. Rudy is told he’s not big enough or smart enough and that he doesn’t belong at Notre Dame.

I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 [Therefore, I do not treat God’s gracious gift as something of minor importance and defeat its very purpose]; I do not set aside and invalidate and frustrate and nullify the grace (unmerited favor) of God. For if justification (righteousness, acquittal from guilt) comes through [observing the ritual of] the Law, then Christ (the Messiah) died groundlessly and to no purpose and in vain. [His death was then wholly superfluous,] Galatians 2:20-21.

The Church at Galatia had their own ungodly beliefs to overcome. However, this time adult Christians who could not let go of their Jewish upbringing would not let go of following the Torah. Subsequently, a religious sect known as the Judaizers were forcing Gentiles to become circumcised. As their doctrine developed over time, Judaizers were equating the act of circumcision with a necessary step to be saved. According to the apostle Paul, Barnabas and Peter were led astray by this teaching as they began to separate from non-Jewish Christians. This is not the type of belief consistent with Jesus’ teaching.

But now that the faith has come, we are no longer under a trainer (the guardian of our childhood). 26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. 27 For as many [of you] as were baptized into Christ [into a spiritual union and communion with Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah] have put on (clothed yourselves with) Christ. 28 There is [now no distinction] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male [b]and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus, Galatians 3:25-28.

One of the inspirations for writing Galtians is to address and correct this spiritual lie. The two passages above highlight the importance of faith. First, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul uses similar language in Colossians 3:1-9 where Christians are called to leave their old self and practices. Until human beings purge and put to death the addictions and bad habits of their past, belief in God is hard to maintain. However, as Christians begin to live by faith by putting on spiritual attributes of Jesus, a sense of belonging and purpose enters your life. When you join a church body, believing leads to belonging.

by Jay Mankus

Where the Vine and Shepherd Co-Exist

There are 46 parables of Jesus recorded in the four New Testament gospels. Two of these stories illustrate the personal relationship that God desires to have with human beings. In the first parable below, Jesus reveals God’s Open Door Policy, keeping the Shepherd’s Gate available and unlocked. Meanwhile, the second story John recounts is a living vine that is a source for life with supernatural power to bear fruit.

So Jesus said again, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that I Myself am the Door [a]for the sheep. All others who came [as such] before Me are thieves and robbers, but the [true] sheep did not listen to and obey them. I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture, John 10:7-9.

Jesus compares himself to a shepherd who is overseeing a large flock of sheep. Like any caring shepherd, Jesus stands by the entrance, making sure every member of his flock is secured within the pen. Yet, life doesn’t always go as planned, with unseen circumstances lurking in the distance. Therefore, Jesus warns his sheep of thieves and robbers that will try to deceive and steal joy from your life.

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. If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you, John 15:4-7.

Five chapters later, Jesus compares himself to an abundant Vine. Using the illustration of a gardener tending to and pruning each branch, this habit is designed to stimulate growth. When you learn to recognize and listen to God’s voice, this is where the Vine and Shepherd co-exist. Instead of relying on your own strength, when you learn to fully place your trust in Jesus, you’ll enter through the front door and remain connected to the Vine.

by Jay Mankus

The Desire to Become Part of a Greater Cause

I’m the youngest of three with two older sisters, four and five years apart. Because of this age difference, I wasn’t big enough to be included in our neighborhood games. I spent the first 10 years of my life sitting on the sidelines, watching everyone else have fun. When my father got transferred to Delaware, most of the new neighborhood was my age. Despite a severe speech impediment, I found solace in playing board games, sports and video games with kids who became like a second family.

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth, Acts 1:8.

When high school arrived, I joined a sport that I was told no one ever gets cut, Cross Country. Like Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, I became a running fool. While the actual act of running was brutally hard, the friends that I made during these 4 years was unlike anything I have ever experienced. One of my favorite memories was going on a long bus ride to Killens Pond State Park to compete in my first ever running invitational. To represent Concord and run for my teammates made me feel part of a greater cause for the first time in my life.

Now there are distinctive varieties and distributions of endowments (gifts, [a]extraordinary powers distinguishing certain Christians, due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls by the Holy Spirit) and they vary, but the [Holy] Spirit remains the same. And there are distinctive varieties of service and ministration, but it is the same Lord [Who is served]. And there are distinctive varieties of operation [of working to accomplish things], but it is the same God Who inspires and energizes them all in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the [Holy] Spirit [the evidence, the spiritual illumination of the Spirit] for good and profit, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

After my sophomore year of college, I was invited to attend a church service where one of my mentors was speaking. Little did I know that joining this small service of about 20 people, I felt an instant special connection with this church body. Despite meeting inside the entrance of a local high school for 2 years, I felt called to become baptized and to start the process of joining Cornerstone Church. This wasn’t just a neighborhood or a school group, but a body of believers that allowed me to become part of a greater cause to share the love of Jesus throughout Delaware. May you find the same joy that I found in my earlier years.

by Jay Mankus

The Balance Between Trusting Medication and God for Mental Health

A 2018 article in Psychology Today addresses “The Voice Inside Your Head.” Author and Doctor Steve Taylor talks about his own personal experience as a teenager. This voice, whisper or thought does have a series of explanations. One could be your conscience designed by God to regulate and steer your body toward doing what’s right. The whisper could be advice imparted to you as a child or inner demons that attempt to drag you down. Meanwhile, thoughts can be the contemplation process in action, weighing the pros and cons. Yet, what is the balance between trusting medication and trusting God for your mental health?

But for [a]Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed. And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and depressed and dejected? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it, Genesis 4:5-7.

The passage above unveils the conversion that many struggling believers have with God. When things don’t go your way, you may become envious or jealous of that person you know who seems so blessed by God. This was the dilemma facing Cain as his younger brother had become a successful shepherd. Meanwhile, Cain was working his ass off as a farmer, but to no avail. As Cain became depressed about his lack of success in life, a root of bitterness began to take hold of Cain’s heart. Concerned by what Cain was thinking, God sought to intervene, Unfortunately, it was too late as Cain had already made up his mind, James 1:14-15. There was no medicine available at this time to alter Cain’s mental state.

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and [h][especially wicked] sinners came and sat (reclined) with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and those [preeminently] sinful? 12 But when Jesus heard it, He replied, Those who are strong and well (healthy) have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy [that is, [i]readiness to help those in trouble] and not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. For I came not to call and invite [to repentance] the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin), Matthew 9:10-13.

Following a meal with religious leaders, Jesus began to open up about the balance between trusting medicine and God for your own mental health. Jesus makes a clear distinction between the sick and healthy. The spiritually mature tend to be able to manage whatever conditions arise, learning how to take care of themselves. Meanwhile, it’s the sick who need the help of a doctor. Whether you’re talking about addictions, bad habits or internal cravings, medical physicians will prescribe what needs to happen before a full recovery can be made. Sometimes this condition requires drugs and other circumstances call for discipline. The ultimate goal is to find that ideal balance between trusting God and medicine.

by Jay Mankus

What Happened to the Fallen Angels?

According to Revelation 12:9, the former archangel Lucifer and a third of the angels in heaven were thrown down to earth. The apostle Paul reveals that Lucifer now serves as the Ruler of the Air in Ephesus 2:2. While there is no direct mention of this, it is assumed that fallen angels now serve the Devil, aka Satan in the spiritual dimension, creating havoc for all human beings behind the scenes, Ephesians 6:12.

And angels who did not keep (care for, guard, and hold to) their own first place of power but abandoned their proper dwelling place—these He has reserved in custody in eternal chains (bonds) under the thick gloom of utter darkness until the judgment and doom of the great day. [The wicked are sentenced to suffer] just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the adjacent towns—which likewise gave themselves over to impurity and indulged in unnatural vice and sensual perversity—are laid out [in plain sight] as an exhibit of perpetual punishment [to warn] of everlasting fire, Jude 1:6-7.

One section of the Bible known as the Catholic Letters, (universal letters to Christians scattered throughout the world following the persecution of Nero), provides a glimpse of what happened to fallen angels. Jude eludes to their eternal fate as followers of Lucifer. Comparing the judgment these angels will face to something worse than what occurred to Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament.

For God did not [even] spare angels that sinned, but cast them into hell, delivering them to be kept there in pits of gloom till the judgment and their doom. And He spared not the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven other persons, when He brought a flood upon the world of ungodly [people]. And He condemned to ruin and extinction the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, reducing them to ashes [and thus] set them forth as an example to those who would be ungodly; 2 Peter 2:4-6.

At some point prior to their expulsion, these angels abandoned their proper dwelling place. By exercising free will, these angels stopped caring for, guarding, holding on to and keeping the responsibilities assigned to them by their heavenly Father. When you examine the words of the Devil in Matthew 4:1-9, these once heavenly beings wanted recognition and praise. Subsequently, self gratification similar to the process illustrated in James 1:14-15 reveals what happened to these fallen angels.

by Jay Mankus

What Goes On Beneath the Surface Prior to Rebellion

In a letter to the Church at Thessalonica, the apostle Paul examines the mystery of lawlessness, 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8. Inside this passage, Paul unveils the hidden principle of rebellion. From a historical perspective, the origin of rebellion began with one simple thought in Genesis 3:3, “did God really say?” When Eve allowed this New Age Philosophy to take root within her heart, this is what was going on beneath the surface prior to rebellion being conceived.

[Therefore beware] brethren, take care, lest there be in any one of you a wicked, unbelieving heart [which refuses to cleave to, trust in, and rely on Him], leading you to turn away and desert or stand aloof from the living God. 13 But instead warn (admonish, urge, and encourage) one another every day, as long as it is called Today, that none of you may be hardened [into settled rebellion] by the deceitfulness of sin [by the fraudulence, the stratagem, the trickery which the delusive glamor of his sin may play on him], Hebrews 3:12-13.

Rather than review original sin, the author of Hebrews goes back to what happened to Israel following the Exodus out of Egypt. God’s initial plan was to enter the Promised Land at Canaan in the same calendar that Israel fled Egypt. Yet, instead of trusting God to provide manna while living in the wilderness, the hidden principle of rebellion once again reared its ugly head. This came in the form of bickering, complaining, and grumbling to Moses as many Jews wish they had never left Egypt.

Then while it is [still] called Today, if you would hear His voice and when you hear it, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion [in the desert, when the people provoked and irritated and embittered God against them]. 16 For who were they who heard and yet were rebellious and provoked [Him]? Was it not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He irritated and provoked and grieved for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose [d]dismembered bodies were strewn and left in the desert? – Hebrews 3:15-17

According to Moses, a hardened heart prevents individuals from hearing God’s voice. Perhaps, when Eve was entertaining a sly serpent in the Garden of Eden, the concept of questioning God gradually reached her heart. As this conversation continued, the first lie on earth was planted within Eve’s mind. Thinking that God was holding her back, Eve began to stare at this forbidden fruit. The more Eve look, enticement and lust was conceived, James 1:14-15. This is what goes on beneath the surface prior to any rebellion.

by Jay Mankus

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