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Are You Willfully Living Outside of God’s Will?

A stubborn and determined intention to do as one wants, regardless of the consequences is consistent with someone who possesses a willful personality. Similar to a narcissist, willful acts are deliberate, with an excessive interest on themselves. Like any bad habit, the further you deviate and go off on your own, the more difficult it becomes to yield control to someone else. This might explain why some Christians are still willfully living outside of God’s will.

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions), so that when it fails, they [those you have favored] may receive and welcome you into the everlasting habitations (dwellings). 10 He who is faithful in a very little [thing] is faithful also in much, and he who is dishonest and unjust in a very little [thing] is dishonest and unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the [case of] unrighteous mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions), who will entrust to you the true riches? – Luke 16:9-11

The college years tend to be the most difficult period for Christians to hold on to faith, especially when you attend a secular college or university. As for me, I was like a teeter totter, going up and down and back and forth. After abandoning God my first semester to explore the party scene, I made Jesus the Lord of my life at a retreat during winter session. At least I thought I did until each summer was spent drifting and slipping away, going clubbing on the Flats in downtown Cleveland every weekend.

For He foreordained us (destined us, planned in love for us) to be adopted (revealed) as His own children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the purpose of His will [because it pleased Him and was His kind intent]—Ephesians 1:5

This sinful cycle finally came to an end my senior year of college, after breaking my ankle while playing sand volleyball. Stuck in bed my finally two weeks of that summer, I reached my spiritual point of no return. Sick of my lukewarm faith, the Clash song Should I Stay of Should I Go describes the thoughts rushing through my head. After days of contemplation and prayer, I ended 4 years of willfully living outside of God’s will. Reminded of a song from a Lay Witness Mission that I attended in college, the following words confirmed my decision, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

by Jay Mankus

Just What I Needed

As a teenager, the Cars became one of my favorite bands in high school. I actually met Rick Ocasek in passing, the lead singer of Cars, while walking through downtown Boston during a Spring Break in college. Ocasek wrote Just What I Needed in a basement at a commune in Newton, Massachusetts. While the inspiration behind this song varies depending upon the site you visit, the title speaks to human beings searching for a boost to get them through each day.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over. Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place, Psalm 23:5-6.

In the passage above, King David reflects back to his life as a lowly shepherd boy. This eloquent Psalm compares the responsibilities of a shepherd to how God provides for the needs of human beings. Whether you are in green pastures, having a great day or approaching the shadow of death, the Lord is all that you need to weave your way through life. While many search for love in all the wrong places, Jesus is just what I needed, Romans 10:9-11.

And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:19.

In a letter to the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul builds upon Psalm 23. Like a global retail chain, the Lord serves as a massive supplier to fill all of our needs. Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ disciples claims that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life, 2 Peter 1:3-4. While songs like Just What I Needed may meet an emotional need, God’s grace, love, and mercy is a spiritual gift from heaven, John 3:16-17. As individuals accept this free gift, Romans 6:23, hearts, souls, and minds come to realize that this is just what I needed.

by Jay Mankus

I Owe So Off to Work I Go

The song ” Heigh-Ho ” comes from the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Written by Larry Morey with the melody and music created by Frank Churchill, Heigh-Ho is sung by six of the dwarfs. To pass the time while walking back and forth from work, Heigh-Ho serves as a distraction from the mundane aspects of life. In a recent sermon by Dr. Tony Evans, he put a new spin on this song with a parody entitled, “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.”

There are precious treasures and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a self-confident and foolish man swallows it up and wastes it, Proverbs 21:20.

The term foolish is used 71 times by King Solomon in the Book of Proverbs. While defining and illustrating wisdom to his sons, foolishness is used as an example of what not to do. In the passage above, Solomon points out that a lack of saving results in poverty. This analogy highlights that fools don’t appreciate what they have, often devouring everything all at once. Thus, unless some form of self-discipline is exercised, foolish choices will lead to debt and poverty.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender, Proverbs 22:7.

One chapter later, Solomon reveals the consequences of poor financial decisions. When individuals don’t pay off their credit cards each month or out spend what they make, you will become a slave to debt. Subsequently, Dr. Evan’s sermon becomes a reality as desperate people are forced to go to work to pay off their car, home, and or school debt. One of the way politicians stay in power is by promising their constituents government handouts. Instead of promoting rugged individualism, lifelong politicians want voters to be in need, a slave to debt, to insure their votes over and over again. Break this habit quickly so that financial freedom is achieved.

by Jay Mankus

Removing the Element of Doubt

There are 72 accounts in the Bible that mention doubt. This feeling of uncertainty prevents human beings from achieving their full potential. This is what Abraham Maslow calls self-actualization, reaching the top of the pyramid as our hierarchy of needs are met. One of the greatest barriers standing in our way is doubt. Jesus said to first century followers, “a lack of belief is keeping you from a mountain top experience,” Matthew 21:18-22. Meanwhile, Jesus’ earthly brother refers to doubt as a series of crashing waves, propelled by strong winds.

Now the wife of a son of the prophets cried to Elisha, Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord. But the creditor has come to take my two sons to be his slaves. Elisha said to her, What shall I do for you? Tell me, what have you [of sale value] in the house? She said, Your handmaid has nothing in the house except a jar of oil. Then he said, Go around and borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels—and not a few. And when you come in, shut the door upon you and your sons. Then pour out [the oil you have] into all those vessels, setting aside each one when it is full, 2 Kings 4:1-4.

The aftermath of the Coronavirus has taken a toll on small businesses across the country. The dreams of many hopeful entrepreneurs have been dashed, leading many in the same position of the woman in the passage above. Down to her last jar of oil, this woman was desperate, just hoping to survive. The solution to her problem didn’t sound too promising, collecting as many empty containers from her neighbors as possible. Yet, similar to Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine, the oil inside of her only jar kept flowing.

So she went from him and shut the door upon herself and her sons, who brought to her the vessels as she poured the oil. When the vessels were all full, she said to her son, Bring me another vessel. And he said to her, There is not a one left. Then the oil stopped multiplying. Then she came and told the man of God. He said, Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons live on the rest, 2 Kings 4:5-7.

According to a Charles Schwab’s 2019 financial study, 59% of Americans live pay check to check. Another 2019 survey discovered that 65% of Americans own their own home. Depending upon your current financial status, future goals may need to be altered. Yet, until the element of doubt is removed, you’ll never reach your full potential. This is where faith must swoop in to replace doubt. When lingering thoughts of doubt chip away at one’s inner confidence, a belief in the power of the Holy Spirit is crucial to removing the element of doubt. In the passage above, debts were paid off and retirement became a reality. Just believe!

by Jay Mankus

The Impulses of the Flesh

A sudden strong and unreflective urge doesn’t wait for an invitation. Like an itch that doesn’t go away, impulses tend to feed on moments of weakness. Whether this is a compulsive desire to raid your fridge for food in the middle of the night or an urge to buy whatever you see, impulses of the flesh are hard to control or tame. The more you feed these cravings, the hungrier your flesh becomes. Addictions, bad habits and poor decisions are merely byproducts of out of control impulses.

Among these we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh [our behavior governed by our corrupt and sensual nature], obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind [our cravings dictated by our senses and our dark imaginings]. We were then by nature children of [God’s] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation, like the rest of mankind, Ephesians 2:3.

In the lyrics of their song Slow Fade, Casting Crowns eludes to the impulses of the flesh. Using the expression “the second glance,” this opens the door for enticement to consume human souls. One of Jesus’ disciples refers to this as the lust of the eyes in 1 John 2:16. If the eyes are the lamp of the body, Matthew 6:22-23, as soon as eyes convince your mind to act, the impulses of the flesh take over. This may explain the apostle Paul’s confession in Romans 7:19, “I can’t control myself.”

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. 16 Do not be misled, my beloved brethren, James 1:14-16.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consumed by the agony of defeat, the apostle Paul does provide a solution in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Like an athlete going into strict training, extinguishing the impulses of the flesh requires complete concentration. The includes discipline, focus, and the will power to regain control of your body. Essentially, you need to exchange the impulses of the flesh with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. This process is made complete by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

When You Can’t Be Trusted

When I was in first grade, I spent a week at my Uncle Eddy’s beach house. Each night my whole family walked to a local ice cream parlor for dessert. On one of our last nights there, I begged my parents to allow me to carry the money. At this time in history, $10 was enough to buy a family of five a waffle cone. I don’t remember if I had a hole in my pocket or simply dropped this bill along the way. Whatever happened, I lost the money and lost the trust of my family on the same night.

He who is faithful in a very little [thing] is faithful also in much, and he who is dishonest and unjust in a very little [thing] is dishonest and unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the [case of] unrighteous mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions), who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not proved faithful in that which belongs to another [whether God or man], who will give you that which is your own [that is, the true riches]? – Luke 16:10-12

One of Jesus’ most famous stories is the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30. This is just one of a series of parables that Jesus shares to illustrate what the kingdom of heaven will be like. Meanwhile, Luke records the Parable of the Shrewd Manager. The latter story refers to an individual who had let things slide over time. Like a business on the verge of bankruptcy, this man is forced to act swiftly before losing everything. The moral of this parable is if you can’t be trusted in the little things, God won’t trust you with greater responsibilities in this life.

And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, Master, you entrusted two talents to me; here I have gained two talents more. 23 His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, [admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the [e]blessedness) which your master enjoys. 24 He who had received one talent also came forward, saying, Master, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you had not winnowed [the grain]. 25 So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is your own, Matthew 25:22-25.

The Parable of the Talents is based upon integrity, doing what’s right when no one is looking. Three servants are left in charge of their master’s finances while he is away, not given a specific time table of his return. While a silver talent is equivalent to  $3,924 and a gold talent $228,900, the point of this story is to seize each day on earth by using your God given gifts. If you are wasting these talents or afraid to fail, this is when God will lose faith in you. Since it’s never too late to change, fan into flame your God given gifts today, 2 Timothy 1:6, before the Lord calls you home.

by Jay Mankus

Walk by this Rule

“Walk This Way” was written by Aerosmith’s lead singer Steven Tyler and lead guitar Joe Perry. Perry came up with this tune while “fooling around” on his guitar back in 1974. Tyler points out that the lyrics are sexually charged, based upon an experienced girl who is in control of a relationship. From a spiritual point of view, taking a walk on the wild side is not setting a good example; nor is this a rule to follow.

For neither is circumcision [now] of any importance, nor uncircumcision, but [only] a new creation [the result of a new birth and a new nature in Christ Jesus, the Messiah], Galatians 6:15.

At the conclusion of a first century letter, the apostle Paul urges Galatians to walk by a specific rule. A rule is a set of explicit, understood regulations and or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere. Paul is referring to the passage above. Instead of following a set of rigid Jewish customs, Paul’s rule to emulate is becoming a new creation in Christ Jesus. Paul’s call is to walk by this spiritual way.

Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule [who discipline themselves and regulate their lives by this principle], even upon the [true] Israel of God! – Galatians 6:16

However, abiding by this rule requires two keys elements: discipline and self-regulation. The context of discipline points back to Galatians 5:16-25, pushing back against earthly desires by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. The regulate aspect refers to controlling and maintaining a Christ like mindset. Similar to Paul words in Colossians 3:1-9, to become spiritually alive you have to put to death your old self. Walk by this rule.

by Jay Mankus

Born to Win

C.S. Lewis defines progress as the process of arriving in his book Mere Christianity. Meanwhile, winning is gaining victory in a contest or competition. If you are a perfectionist like me, you are probably keeping score of your wins and losses daily. However, if life is more like a marathon than a sprint, pacing yourself and participating in strict training is essential for success. If you believe in Romans 8:28-29, then you are born to win.

[But the Lord rebukes Jeremiah’s impatience, saying] If you have raced with men on foot and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? And if [you take to flight] in a land of peace where you feel secure, then what will you do [when you tread the tangled maze of jungle haunted by lions] in the swelling and flooding of the Jordan? – Jeremiah 12:5

If this is your destiny, it’s easy to become overconfident along the way. This complacency often results in poor training habits, becoming out of shape spiritually. The analogy above is designed to illustrate what you can handle and what you can’t. If you aren’t able to be competitive in a race against other men, you won’t have a shot at progressing to the next level. When you’re born to win, just showing up each day won’t get it done.

And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; Hebrews 12:5.

Integrity is doing what’s right when nobody is looking. Therefore, being born to win requires added responsibility. The context of the passage above begins with an image of dead Christians, looking down from heaven, cheering you on as you compete in the race of life. The author of Hebrews encourages readers to keep your eyes on the prize, fixated on the cross of Christ. Just like keeping your head up while running maintains your momentum, keeping your eyes on heaven will secure victory in the end, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Under the Sway of this Present Age

To move or cause slow movement, often rhythmically backward and forward or from side to side is to sway. From a spiritual perspective, if your eye isn’t on the prize, Hebrews 12:1-2, the temptations of this present age may cause you to oscillate. Thus, if you aren’t secure by being deeply rooted in Christ, Colossians 2:7-8, you become vulnerable prey to the Devil. According to one of Jesus’ own disciples, behind the scenes there is a spiritual enemy who is constantly on the prowl, 1 Peter 5:8. This invisible roaring lion is the force of darkness behind this present age.

In which at one time you walked [habitually]. You were following the course and fashion of this world [were under the sway of the tendency of this present age], following the prince of the power of the air. [You were obedient to and under the control of] the [demon] spirit that still constantly works in the sons of disobedience [the careless, the rebellious, and the unbelieving, who go against the purposes of God], Ephesians 2:2.

While God is omnipresent, the ruler of the air is flying from place to place, searching for an open door. For those of you currently undergoing a fierce spiritual attack, God isn’t the one to blame. Rather, the sway of this present age feeds on enticement and lust, James 1:13-15, dragging curious souls further and further away from God. Like being under the influence of a spiritual spell, addiction, poor choices and unusual behavior make people do the opposite of what they want, Romans 7:15-17. According to the apostle Paul, this is when full blown sin takes over your body.

Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere, Ephesians 6:11-12.

Four chapters after introducing the concept of a ruler of the air, the apostle Paul provides a blueprint on how to survive the sway of this present age, Ephesians 6:11-18. Another way of conceptualizing the armor of God, if you don’t put on this spiritual armor via prayer, it’s like fighting naked. Meanwhile, you can’t overlook the apostle Paul’s advice in 2 Corinthians 10:4-6, as your mindset makes a different. If you take your thoughts captive, you won’t be swayed. However, as soon as you let your guard down, a spirit of disobedience will poison your soul and pull you away from the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

The Canceling of Our Shortcomings

One of the core messages of the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ, is the spiritual reality of God’s grace. Acronyms of grace often describe this as God’s riches at Christ’s expense. God’s activity toward human beings rains down forgiveness, repentance, regeneration, and salvation from heaven. This unmerited favor from God serves as a spiritual do over to those who enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11.

[So that we might be] to the praise and the commendation of His glorious grace (favor and mercy), which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor, Ephesians 1:6-7.

In the beginning of his letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul unravels God’s grace. Grace is lavished upon the children of God in the form of love. Instead of condemning transgressions, the blood Jesus shed as the perfect lamb of God has redeemed guilty sinners. Romans 5:8 clearly describes the spiritual significance of Jesus’ act of love; “But God shows and clearly proves His love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Which He lavished upon us in every kind of wisdom and understanding (practical insight and prudence), Ephesians 1:8.

King David prophesized about this spiritual reality in Psalm 103:12. As far as the east is from the west refers to God’s infinite love. In other words, God’s love is equivalent to infinity. When you add everything together, the canceling of our shortcomings is made complete. Luke 2:10 describes Jesus’ birth as good tidings of great joy. Perhaps Luke was exhibiting forward thinking, knowing that the promised Messiah of the Old Testament would soon cancel our shortcomings.

by Jay Mankus

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