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Moving Forward Spiritually

The context of “taking sides” below occurs in the middle of a parable. Jesus tells a story of an individual who seeks to enter a strong man’s house. However, unless you first bind the spiritual entities that protect this house (body), you won’t be able to enter. In other words, if you’re not totally with Jesus, you’re against Him. Subsequently, those who are not moving forward spiritually begin to scatter, no longer imitating the love and life of Jesus.

He who is not with Me [definitely on My side] is against Me, and he who does not [definitely] gather with Me and for My side scatters, Matthew 12:30.

This same concept applies to churches as well. During a visit to the Church at Laodicea, John wasn’t impressed. Sure, there were some good things happening, blessed with wealth. Yet, at some point in time members began to trust in their financial riches instead of God. Just like Pink Floyd’s 1979 hit song, members of the Church at Laodicea had become comfortably numb. When you stop growing spiritually, idleness results in back sliding.

I know your [record of] works and what you are doing; you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth! – Revelation 3:15-16

Forward motion is difficult to maintain when your faith is currently stalled. When individuals remove Bible Study, prayer or worship from their weekly spiritual diet, this situation only gets worse. When picking up the Bible, speaking to God or going to church becomes a chore, a spiritual spark is needed. Until revival ignites a dormant faith, most souls will remain in neutral. May this blog inspire you to jump start your faith with forward motion.

by Jay Mankus

Satan’s Pawn Shop

The reality television show Pawn Stars debuted on July 19th, 2009. Hosted by The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, a cast of characters and unique items have entertained Americans for more than a decade. Like a modern version of the Antique Roadshow, owner Rick Harrison discovers hidden treasures every episode. Yet, this popular show conceals the grim definition of pawn, “holding something hostage.”

For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit. Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever]. [That is] because the mind of the flesh [with its carnal thoughts and purposes] is hostile to God, for it does not submit itself to God’s Law; indeed it cannot, Romans 8:5-7.

When you adopt and apply the term pawn to the spiritual dimension, Satan’s Pawn Shop includes human bodies held captive by sin. The apostle Paul compares this to a mindset focused on your carnal desires or the Holy Spirit. Natural inclinations lean toward gratifying your own fleshly desires. In the previous chapter, Paul details his own failures to keep his body in check, often doing the opposite of what he wanted to do, Romans 7:17-20.

Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, 20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Despite this dire condition, Paul reveals who came to the rescue, paying the price for those held hostage by Satan. This ransom was purchased when Jesus laid down his own life on a cross, 1 Timothy 2:6. While some may try to intervene on God’s behalf, Jesus is the only one who can redeem lives seized by Satan. As the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, the enemy is watching, eager to pounce upon weak and vulnerable souls. This is a typical day inside of Satan’s Pawn Shop highlighted by 1 Peter 5:8-9.

by Jay Mankus

Five Stones and a Slingshot

According to Rick Hess, a resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Common Core standards have roots in President George W. Bush’ No Child Left Behind Act in 2002. Like so many education reform initiatives that seem to arise out of nowhere, Common Core Curriculum is another example of invisible human beings endowed with inordinate power to impose their ideas on public education. If case you were wondering, you can thank the National Governors Association for Common Core Standards. This attempt to re-invent the wheel for public education has left states and students well behind. When you add new curriculum such as the 1619 Project, Critical Race Theory, and White Privilege, America’s history is being erased before our very eyes.

David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of this Philistine; your servant will go out and fight with him. 33 And Saul said to David, You are not able to go to fight against this Philistine. You are only an adolescent, and he has been a warrior from his youth. 34 And David said to Saul, Your servant kept his father’s sheep. And when there came a lion or again a bear and took a lamb out of the flock, 35 I went out after it and smote it and delivered the lamb out of its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard and smote it and killed it, 1 Samuel 18:32-35.

As people and societies evolve, moments arise often via technology to find a faster, more efficient and quicker way of doing things. Instead of focusing on the basics: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, those in charge want to place their own stamp on how things are done. Take for example the passage below as the king and military leader is trying to instruct a shepherd boy on how defeat a giant. Initially, David appeases King Saul, trying on a heavy suit of armor. After moving around, this equipment was too bulky, preventing David from using his agility and quickness. Although the conversation between these two is brief, it appears that David convinces King Saul to let him use what he’s good at. While the odds were against him, David trades in a suit of armor for five stones and a slingshot.

David said, The Lord Who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said to David, Go, and the Lord be with you! 38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 And David girded his sword over his armor. Then he tried to go, but could not, for he was not used to it. And David said to Saul, I cannot go with these, for I am not used to them. And David took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones out of the brook and put them in his shepherd’s [lunch] bag [a whole kid’s skin slung from his shoulder], in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand, and he drew near the Philistine, 1 Samuel 17:37-40.

In 1993, the Christian artist Wes King released the Robe, one of his best albums. While other songs from this collection receive most of the attention, one struck a chord with my soul. The lyrics of Second String begins with an 8th grade football player whose girl friend is a cheerleader. The only problem is this individual rides the bench, praying to get into the game. The second stanza fast forwards to high school to an embarrassing moment on his first date. The third and final stanza refers back to David’s battle with Goliath. Like a tee ball player who is being over coached by every parent in the crowd, David stops listening to everyone else by turning an attentive ear to God. When push comes to shove, you have to trust in your God given gifts and talents. Although you may be tempted to try something outside your comfort zones, five stones and a slingshot led a shepherd boy into the king’s castle.

by Jay Mankus

The Power of a Lie

While spending 3 years of my life in full time youth ministry, I attended several conferences, seminars and workshops. One of the most beneficial aspects of these events was learning new Ice Breakers. Although not every idea worked, I found that playing telephone once a year forced my students to become better listeners. Also known as Chinese Whispers, one teenager starts by reading a written down message or sharing a short story. This information is shared via a whisper over and over again until the last person recounts what this initial message has morphed into.

Truthful lips shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is [credited] but for a moment. 20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who devise evil, but for the counselors of peace there is joy. Proverbs 12:19-20.

The first participants of telephone were Adam and Eve. Despite knowing the only rule established by God, Genesis 2:16-17, each were intrigued by what a crafty serpent had to say. As soon as the boundary lines were set in the Garden of Eden, both knew that the Tree of Knowledge was off limits. Nonetheless, Eve began to entertain the thought planted into her mind. Instead of telling this snake to scram, Adam began to second guess God. This is the power of a lie, convincing yourself through good intentions to justify wrong actions. Since this day of deception, human beings have become more and more gullible, falling for lie after lie.

No [actual] evil, misfortune, or calamity shall come upon the righteous, but the wicked shall be filled with evil, misfortune, and calamity. 22 Lying lips are extremely disgusting and hateful to the Lord, but they who deal faithfully are His delight, Proverbs 12:21-22.

Since the death of George Floyd, a few riots have been fueled by false reports posted on Twitter. By the time this lie was exposed, it was too late as city streets, local businesses and neighborhoods resembled a war zone. Instead of double checking sources to confirm the accuracy of a report, cable news and the print media have become sloppy, jumping the gun so to speak. While President Trump refers to these felonious accounts as “Fake News,” the Bible calls this lying. In the passage above, King Solomon doesn’t speak kindly to those who distort, exaggerate or fib a little. If a politician in cooperation with the media tells a lie over and over again, sooner or later the masses will believe this to be the truth. This is the power of a lie.

by Jay Mankus

A Shift in Focus

The difference between success and failure can be small. A fraction here or a fraction there often determines the final outcome. From a spiritual focus, those who dwell on their circumstances tend to become overwhelmed by fear. This is the situation in the passage below as Israeli soldiers focused on the size of Goliath, a physical giant compared to everyone else. Meanwhile, a skinny shepherd boy sent by his father to bring food to his older brothers noticed Goliath’s weakness. Not being circumcised meant that Goliath was beatable, not covered or protected by God.

And David said to the men standing by him, What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God? 27 And the [men] told him, Thus shall it be done for the man who kills him. 28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard what he said to the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David and he said, Why did you come here? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and evilness of heart; for you came down that you might see the battle, 1 Samuel 17:26-28.

Fast forwarding to the New Testament, the disciples found themselves in the middle of a storm. Unable to take shelter, the wind and waves battered their boat stuck on the Sea of Galilee. Despite just witnessing the feeding of the 5000, Jesus’ disciples began to fear. Instead of focusing of the God of miracles, these men focused on the current storm surrounding their boat. After spending time in prayer, Jesus took a short cut to Capernaum by walking across this body of water. Disappointed by their lack of faith, Jesus used his supernatural powers to take this boat immediately to shore.

[However] when they had rowed three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and approaching the boat. And they were afraid (terrified). 20 But Jesus said to them, It is I; be not afraid! [I Am; stop being frightened!] 21 Then they were quite willing and glad for Him to come into the boat. And now the boat went at once to the land they had steered toward. [And immediately they reached the shore toward which they had been slowly making their way,] John 6:19-21.

In wake of the Coronavirus, perhaps we all need a refresher course on faith. Hebrews 11:1-6 refers to having the assurance and confidence in an invisible God. Without faith it is impossible to please and satisfy God’s expectations, Matthew 16:24-26. Unfortunately, the moment tides change from blessings to adversity, panic causes many to shift their focus. However, the passage above is a reminder that as soon as you shift your focus from your circumstances toward the God of miracles, help is on the way. May this blog inspire you to shift your focus back toward the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

Unsung Heroes

A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities is considered a hero. During the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, first responders, doctors, and nurses were labeled heroes. Willing to put their own lives in danger to save the lives of others earned these brave individuals this badge of honor. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi capitalized on this term by naming the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act of 2020 the Heroes Act. However, a common criticism of the HEROES Act by Republicans was that many of its items in the bill were not directly related to the Coronavirus.

We who are strong [in our convictions and of robust faith] ought to bear with the failings and the frailties and the tender scruples of the weak; [we ought to help carry the doubts and qualms of others] and not to please ourselves, Romans 15:1.

In today’s politically charged climate, when a news story doesn’t fit into the mainstream’s narrative, heroic acts go unrecognized. Such is the case for members of the National Guard in California. State officials called off their search for 200 campers trapped at Shaver Lake in the Sierra National Forest. The conditions were deemed too dangerous with zero visible due to huge plumes of smoke. Despite the odds, over 200 people were rescued by National Guard helicopters. A Blackhawk helicopter, emergency response team, fire and medical elements from the 144th Fighter Wing swooped into action, placing their lives at risk to rescue trapped campers.

Let each one of us make it a practice to please (make happy) his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him [to strengthen him and build him up spiritually], Romans 15:2.

The word hero does not appear in the Bible. However, when you do a search for hero in OpenBible.info, positive actions are provided. According to the apostle Paul, biblical heroes bear with neighbors to uplift their souls. Other qualities including laying your life down for a friend, staying positive despite the circumstances, and choosing love over hate. While the self absorbed seek to draw attention to themselves, unsung heroes do what’s right when nobody is looking. Heroes don’t wait for others to comes to the rescue. Rather, heroes follow their conscience and convictions to help whoever is in need. While rewards may not come on earth, unsung heroes will be commended in heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Driven to Your Knees

When tragedy strikes, most people need a shoulder to lean on, an attentive ear to listen or a hug to be consoled. During his several missionary journeys, the apostle Paul endured agitators, harassing crowds and mobs that wanted to silence his teaching about Jesus. On a couple of occasions, Paul was nearly beaten and stoned to death. Despite this persecution, Paul found time daily to kneel before the Great I Am.

For this reason [seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 For Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named [that Father from Whom all fatherhood takes its title and derives its name]. 16 May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality], Ephesians 3:14-16.

In a letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul reveals the secret to his prayer life. Upon his knees, prayer rejuvenated Paul, replacing his own needs with a desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Apparently, prayer strengthened and reinforced Paul, sensing God’s presence as he poured our heart in prayer. Paul exercised his faith in prayer by making a permanent place in his heart for Jesus.

17 May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; 19 [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]! – Ephesians 3:17-19

Over time, Paul’s faith in Christ was deeply rooted, like the firm foundation of a skyscraper. The daily discipline of prayer conceived and established the love of Jesus within Paul’s soul. When people become devoted to prayer, selfish desires are replaced by the fullness of God. When you begin to experience the abundant life, John 10:10, a spiritual addiction is born. Instead of allowing the world to dictate your mood, praying in the Spirit is like a wave flooding your soul with God’s presence. This is why Paul was driven to his knees.

by Jay Mankus

Misrepresenting God

When you misrepresent someone or something, this usually involves giving a false or misleading account. Whether by action, deeds or words, misrepresentation distorts, perverts and puts a new spin on something. From a spiritual perspective, Christians and or churches often exhibit subtle ways of misrepresenting God. This is displayed through Syncretism which is the  fusion of two or more belief systems, and can be applied to philosophy, politics, and religion. In the Old Testament, Jews began to misrepresent God by adopting and observing pagan gods and practices.

Once more Jesus addressed the crowd. He said, I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the Light which is Life, John 8:12.

There are other examples in Scripture that are much more obvious. The context of the passage above involves a woman caught in the act of adultery. According to Jewish law, this woman must be sentenced to death. The local scribes and Pharisees brought her to Jesus to either test him or simply get his opinion on this matter. Instead of taking the bait, Jesus gets down on one knee, writing with his finger in loose soil. Legend has it that Jesus began to write down transgressions committed by people in the crowd who were about to stone this woman. Bible scholars suggest that Jesus was writing down specific sins, ways that these religious leaders were also misrepresenting God.

We are even discovered to be misrepresenting God, for we testified of Him that He raised Christ, Whom He did not raise in case it is true that the dead are not raised, 1 Corinthians 15:15.

According to the apostle Paul, anyone who denies the resurrection of Jesus also misrepresents God. Prior to this passage, Paul lists several accounts of individuals who met with Jesus after being crucified on a cross. Perhaps, Paul was merely reminding first century believers of the facts. Nearly 2000 years later, atheists and agnostics have cast doubt on Jesus’ resurrection, relying on science rather than faith. However, an entire chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15, is devoted to highlighting the power and significance of Jesus’ resurrection. While it takes time to change, may this blog inspire you to stop misrepresenting God.

by Jay Mankus

Delusions

A delusion is an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted. Whether by error, fantasy or an illusion, delusions occur when individuals refuse to believe the facts. As others push back with reason, defense mechanisms kick in. The stubborn often deny reality, opting to participate in arguments and debates, seeking to win others over to their side.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is mere delusion [futile, fruitless], and you are still in your sins [under the control and penalty of sin]; 18 And further, those who have died in [spiritual fellowship and union with] Christ have perished (are lost)! – 1 Corinthians 15:17-18

When it comes to faith, believing and trusting in an invisible God in considered a delusion by many today. In the series Joan of Arcadia, Amber Tamblyn plays a high school sophomore who experiences a series of encounters with God. Afraid to tell any of her friends, Joan keeps this relationship secret. When Joan contracts a severe case of Lyme Disease at the end of Season 1, her doctors suggest that her unusual behavior were hallucinations. This crisis of faith makes Joan think God was a delusion.

If we who are [abiding] in Christ have hope only in this life and that is all, then we are of all people most miserable and to be pitied. 20 But the fact is that Christ (the Messiah) has been raised from the dead, and He became the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [in death]. 21 For since [it was] through a man that death [came into the world, it is] also through a Man that the resurrection of the dead [has come], 1 Corinthians 15:19-21.

When things go your way, it’s easy to believe. However, when your life begins to fall apart, trusting God in the dark becomes a challenge. In your moments of weakness, the father of lies, John 8:44, will plant doubt within your mind. If you allow these thoughts to linger, ungodly beliefs will conceive. When you don’t take your thoughts captive, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, the Devil can persuade some to believe God is merely a delusion. Don’t fall for this trap as Satan is afraid the same resurrection power that raised Jesus will also transform your life. Learn to trust God in the dark.

by Jay Mankus

Understanding Demonic Oppression

When the Coronavirus began to spread throughout the United States back in March of 2020, relatively unknown doctors became instant celebrities. While Dr. Anthony Fauci received most of the attention as the media’s darling, Dr. Oz was a regular guest panelist on cable news and talk radio. Depending upon their area of expertise or practice, these physicians tried to educate the general public on understanding the dangers of COVID-19. Although their advice varied, I learned the best way to stay healthy involved getting 7-8 hours of sleep and staying hydrated daily.

And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom last? For you say that I expel demons with the help of and by Beelzebub. 19 Now if I expel demons with the help of and by Beelzebub, with whose help and by whom do your sons drive them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.20 But if I drive out the demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has [already] come upon you, Luke 11:18-20.

When it comes to understanding demonic oppression, one of the best sources comes from a first century doctor named Luke. Beside his daily practice, this man sought to become a historian. As Luke began to hear about and see miracles that defied science, eagerness to record these details inspired two books. During a personal account with Jesus, Luke details a powerful spirit referred to as the strongman. Within this parable, Jesus suggests that a person freed from demonic oppression is not completely safe, Rather, if these individuals are careless, reverting back to former sinful practices, demons can return with more powerful tormenting spirits.

When the strong man, fully armed, [from his courtyard] guards his own dwelling, his belongings are undisturbed [his property is at peace and is secure]. But when one stronger than he attacks him and conquers him, he robs him of his whole armor on which he had relied and divides up and distributes all his goods as plunder (spoil). 23 He who is not with Me [siding and believing with Me] is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me [engage in My interest], scatters. 24 When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it roams through waterless places in search [of a place] of rest (release, refreshment, ease); and finding none it says, I will go back to my house from which I came. 25 And when it arrives, it finds [the place] swept and put in order and furnished and decorated. 26 And it goes and brings other spirits, seven [of them], more evil than itself, and they enter in, settle down, and dwell there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first, Luke 11:21-26.

In a chapter to the Church at Rome, Paul reveals his own demonic oppression, experiencing periods where he was unable to control his body, Romans 7:15-18. This baffling ordeal left Paul scratching his head, unable to break free from sinful desires. Beside Galatians 5:16-18, Romans 8:5-8 highlights an external battle that occurs within everyone’s soul. While many try a form of teetotalism, the practice of complete abstinence, Jesus reveals that certain spirits can only be removed via prayer, Mark 9:26-29. Although the book definition of demonic oppression is the work of evil spiritual forces that urge us to sin, deny God’s word, feel spiritually dead, and to be in bondage, few see this for what it is, Ephesians 6:12. While I’m not an expert on this topic, there is a lot more to life’s decisions than the “devil made me do it.” Thus, further study the Bible if you want to fully understand demonic oppression.

by Jay Mankus

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