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An Atheist with Passion

During a late night drive to Liberty University, I took a stroll down Memory Lane. Listening to a 2 CD set from In Reach, a Christian Band with lead vocalist Brett Williams, I was taken back in time to the 1990’s. The Waterline album debuted my senior year of college and Power and Promise came out while I was attending a Youth Ministry Trade School. A line from their song Savannah, “An Atheist with passion” reminded me of a former student.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light, Matthew 6:22.

Since 2011 was my last year of teaching high school, certain songs tend to help me recall the good and difficult times in my classroom. Jennifer was a byproduct of a broken home. Apparently, her older sister was the only adult in the house, making sure she got her two younger sisters to school on time every morning. While Jen’s parents claimed to be Bible believing Christians, their actions continued to feed fleshly desires. Subsequently, this hypocrisy left a sour taste in Jen’s soul, conceiving an Atheist with passion.

But if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the very light in you [your conscience] is darkened, how dense is that darkness! – Matthew 6:23

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns his followers of the side affects of darkness. When addictions, bad habits or poor choices continue to happen, it’s only a matter of time before you too may find yourself in a similar state like Jennifer. During tests and quizzes, Jen regularly shared her disdain for Christianity. As a Bible teacher at this time, it was a hard pill to swallow. Yet, as time went by, all I could do was be a light for Christ. All Christians can do today is hope and pray that something you say or live out will persuade future Jen’s to leave their state of darkness by coming to the light.

by Jay Mankus

Unbridled Sensuality

A bridle is used by trainers to bring a horse under control. Wild horses tend to respond with anger and resentment, especially by throwing up their heads and drawing in their chin. If this is how a young colt reacts to being reigned in, imagine what a rebellious individual will do when caught in the act of sin. As people cross the line between right and wrong, gray areas are formed, leading some toward unbridled sensuality.

Their moral understanding is darkened and their reasoning is beclouded. [They are] alienated (estranged, self-banished) from the life of God [with no share in it; this is] because of the ignorance (the want of knowledge and perception, the willful blindness) that is deep-seated in them, due to their hardness of heart [to the insensitiveness of their moral nature], Ephesians 4:18.

As cultures become more and more progressive, what was once forbidden is now socially acceptable. Instead of encouraging and teaching abstinence in public school, commercials for new drugs are aired weekly to protect the sexually active. Rather than playing it safe, a growing number choose to keep feeding their sexual hunger, opening the door to contract various sexual diseases. Justification comes from the mindset, “if everyone else is doing it, why should I stop?” This is unbridled sensuality in action.

In their spiritual apathy they have become callous and past feeling and reckless and have abandoned themselves [a prey] to unbridled sensuality, eager and greedy to indulge in every form of impurity [that their depraved desires may suggest and demand], Ephesians 4:19.

According to the apostle Paul, sexual sins are different from all other sins, 1 Corinthians 6:12-19. While all sins have consequences, sexual sins result in soul spirit hurts as you become one with another human being. Sexual appetites tend to result in addiction, bad habits and or unhealthy cravings for sex. Before unbridled sensuality consumes any soul, reign in your flesh. This internal battle is on full display in Galatians 5:16-18, providing what you need to overcome these urges before you can regain control of your body.

by Jay Mankus

Shut It Down

The expression “shut it down” is an idiom, slang for to cease operations. Whether you’re referring to a dying business, a floundering device or an overheating vehicle, this command is uttered to prevent further damage. Instead of raising the white flag, shut it down implies that someone or something is giving up. While it’s never easy to admit defeat, these words suggest to move on and wait for another day.

Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind), Ephesians 4:31.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul urges Christians to break an unhealthy habit. Apparently, first century believers struggled to tame their own tongue. Instead of practicing self control, mouths began to spew abusive language. This pattern appears to have spread throughout the Church of Ephesus. Concerned about a full outbreak of trash talking, Paul had heard and seen enough, demanding, “shut it down!”

And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you, Ephesians 4:32.

Like a spiritual form of rehab, Paul adds instructions on how to change above. When urges to criticize, condemn or complain rise to the surface, a tender heart makes all the difference. Instead of treating others according to the world’s standards, remember what Jesus did for you on the cross. As a spirit of compassion begins to flow through your heart, shutting down malicious talk is possible. Rather than the tearing down others to make yourself feel better, choose encouragement to uplift those around you.

by Jay Mankus

Enterprises of Darkness

The origins of darkness can be traced back to the Bible. Apart from its literal meaning, darkness is symbolic of evil in the Bible. George Lucas introduced the world to a new element of darkness in the 1977 Star Wars film. Using a battle between good and evil, Darth Vader’s character is a byproduct of giving into the dark side. Sounding the warning alarm in the New Testament, the apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter, Romans 7, to the consequences of living in darkness.

Take no part in and have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds and enterprises of darkness, but instead [let your lives be soin contrast as to] expose and reprove and convict them. For it is a shame even to speak of or mention the things that [such people] practice in secret, Ephesians 5:11-12.

When darkness becomes a way of life, individuals pursue what the apostle Paul refers to as enterprises of darkness. This undertaking often takes the form of an activity, endeavor, or venture. While Lucas speaks of “following the force,” the Bible urges followers of Jesus to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25. If you choose the latter, souls will finds themselves slip sliding away, joining other wayward individuals in an enterprise of darkness.

[The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, Colossians 1:13.

If you do find yourself on the opposite side of God, hope is provided in the passage above. When your life does spin out of control, there is a deliverer who can lift you out of darkness. However, words are meaningless unless you are willing to change. Until acts of contrition display glimpses of light, dominion’s of darkness will continue to reign. Therefore, if you do come to your senses, Jesus is waiting for you with open arms to begin an enterprise inspired by God’s light, John 3:16-17.

by Jay Mankus

So… You Really Want to Know?

Cause-and-effect is the relationship between actions or events such that one or more are the result of the other or others. In other words, for every action or choice, there is a reaction that is either positive or negative. This is what Bible refers to as the principle of sowing and reaping. If you take this concept literally, what you receive is directly proportionally to the degree to what you put into any endeavor.

Give, and [gifts] will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will they pour into [the pouch formed by] the bosom [of your robe and used as a bag]. For with the measure you deal out [with the measure you use when you confer benefits on others], it will be measured back to you, Luke 6:38.

For example, a recent sermon that I heard stated the following. “If you sow a thought, you will reap an action. If you sow an action, you will reap a habit. If you sow a habit, you reap a specific character trait. If you sow a character trait, you reap a reputation. If you sow a reputation, you reap a legacy. If you sow a legacy, you reap an eternal destiny.” During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains how others will judge you. The name you will make for yourselves is based upon your own actions.

[Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings. Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving]. And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation], 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.

If you’re not satisfied with the person that you’ve become, the passage above briefly explains why. Any individual who gives sparingly of their gifts, money, and or resources, will receive limited blessings from God, if any. The apostle Paul builds upon the teaching of Malachi 3:8-10. When you give to God in the form of service or tithes, blessings from heaven will rain down. Sow… if you really want to know how to change your destiny, the words above provide a blueprint for sowing according to God’s Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Live Purposefully

While attending a seminar in college, I was first introduced to the concept of planning. One of the speakers proclaimed, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This message is consistent with the words of an Old Testament prophet, Hosea 4:6. When your life is void of goals, without a clear vision for where you want to go, failure is in your future. Thus, if you want to live purposefully, this journey begins by discovering your place in this world.

Therefore He says, Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine (make day dawn) upon you and give you light. 15 Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), Ephesians 5:14-15.

Near the end of his letter to the Church at Ephesus, Paul provides a pep talk for those individuals going through life without any sense of direction. Paul uses the analogy of sleep walking, spiritual dead or numb to God’s calling. Instead of going through life like a zombie from the Walking Dead, people need to become alive, inspired by the light of Christ. Until this spiritual hunger is conceived, people will continue to wander aimlessly through life.

Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is, Ephesians 5:16-17.

The Roman poet Horace recorded the Latin saying Carpe Diem in his work Odes, 25 years before Christ was born. As a Roman citizen, Paul likely knew of Horace’s work and may have referenced this in the passage above. If you truly want to seize each day, grasping God’s will for your life is the first step. As this comes into focus, uncovering your spiritual gifts and talents is crucial, 1 Corinthians 12:1-12. When these are put into action, 2 Timothy 1:6, living with purpose is possible, John 10:10.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Be So Vague

Carly Simon released You’re So Vain in November 1972. One year earlier, Simon won a Grammy for New Artist of the Year. Vain refers to having an excessively high opinion of one’s abilities, appearance, or worth. At age 70, Simon recently wrote memoirs entitled Boys in the Trees. This addresses the inspiration behind You’re So Vain, a song about a self-obsessed lover, based upon a mixture of three of the men in her life at that time, including actor Warren Beatty. Unfortunately, in today’s age of Cancel Culture and Political Correctness, vain has been replaced by vague.

Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is, Ephesians 5:17.

When honest opinions are expressed or shared on social media, anyone who is offended by these comments often trigger a fire storm. Back in the early 1970’s, preachers nationwide responded to the Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s with sermons filled with fire and brimstone. A half century later, individuals who left the church as teenagers are now part of the crowd condemning people of faith. If any Christian has the gall to state that marriage was designed as a lifelong commitment between a man or woman, a backlash will likely follow. Thus, many believers remain silent or keep their beliefs vague.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit, Ephesians 5:18.

In the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul sends a warning to members of the Church at Ephesus. Vague is compared with foolish and thoughtless acts. Like the words of a former disciple of Jesus, Revelation 3:16, if you find yourself somewhere in between, God will eventually spit you out. One verse later, Paul provides advice for overcoming vagueness. As Christians start to pray for and pursue the Holy Spirit, vague comments will be replaced by a heart of conviction. Therefore, the next time you are afraid to voice what you believe, let the Holy Spirit rid your life of another vague answer.

by Jay Mankus

The Real Global Warning Threat

The Dust Bowl of the 1930’s may have conceived a generation of scientists who adhere to and subscribe to the belief that global warming as the greatest threat to the future of the earth. This one event served as a painful lesson for farmers who over tilled their land, contributing to American’s Great Depression, spawning a decade from 1929 to 1939. To modern followers of global warming, there is no time to waste, whatever the cost may be to save this planet.

Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it, Ephesians 4:29.

While preserving the earth is a noble cause, another global warning was recorded in the first century. Instead of highlighting the dangers of fossil fuel, the apostle Paul refers to a spiritual pandemic that began to spin out of control. This verbal pollution has taken a toll on souls for the past 2000 years. Gossip, slander, and trash talking have been embraced by social media, using entertainment as an excuse to keep sinning with a smile.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [do not offend or vex or sadden Him], by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God’s own, secured) for the day of redemption (of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin). 31 Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind), Ephesians 4:30-31.

Apparently, the use of evil comments, hate filled speech, and unwholesome talk grieves the Holy Spirit. Human beings were designed to encourage and lift one another up. Yet, as global warming steals most of the news headlines, politicians seek to destroy anyone who does not hold or support their secular world view. Subsequently, dissenters are shamed on social media, often using false stereotypes to force a public apology. The decay of biblical values in America is the real global warning threat that must be addressed before faith in God becomes banned worldwide.

by Jay Mankus

Let the Thief Steal No More

The Greek word for thief is κλέφτης. When translated into English, this term refers to a bandit, lifter or robber. Character traits include going into a stealth mode, taking something of value when no one is looking. In the biblical case of Judas Iscariot, he was the treasurer of Jesus’ earthly ministry. As donations began to flow in following a plethora of miracles, some scholars have suggested that Judas began to skim off the top prior to betraying Jesus.

When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. 27 Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]. 28 Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need, Ephesians 4:26-28.

In a letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul unveils a spiritual mastermind. Like the Joker in Batman, this archenemy will do anything in his power to win at all costs. If you go back and examine Matthew 4:1-11, this is exactly what the Devil does to trick Jesus into giving into temptation. Despite this failed attempt, every day the thief steals from followers of Christ. Using a series of subtle forms of compromise, the Devil is bent on seeing people of faith fall away from God.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)., John 10:10.

The disciple whom Jesus loved uses a similar expression to warn first century followers of this spiritual thief. As the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, the Devil has 3 main objectives daily. First, to steal the word of God sown in a new believer’s heart, Matthew 13:19. Second, to kill the dreams of those seeking to reach self-actualization, Jeremiah 29:11. Finally, to destroy any spiritual relationship, Luke 10:38-42, that will help uplift you when you fail. Regardless of your current circumstances, let the thief steal no more by covering your friends with a hedge of protection via prayer.

by Jay Mankus

Surrounded by Trouble

The older you become, the degree of trouble often intensifies. As a child, you may get your hand caught in the cookie jar. As adolescence arrives, someone in your neighborhood may catch you drinking, smoking or cursing out loud. If you are fortunate enough to attend college, you may choose to skip some classes or get involved into an inappropriate relationship. Like his 1989 song, Michael W. Smith claims that we are always living and learning, shaped by the trouble that surrounds us.

Do not let your hearts be troubled (distressed, agitated). You believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely on God; believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely also on Me, John 14:1.

When your future is in jeopardy, trouble is fueled by anxiety, concern, and fear. The context of the passage above occurs during the Passion Week, sometime after Palm Sunday and before Jesus’ arrest. John 14 begins immediately after Jesus predicts his future death in John 13:38. Apparently, Jesus saw panic in his disciples eyes or sensed a spirit of hopelessness. Therefore, when your heart is troubled, believe and trust in the Lord, Proverbs 3:5-6.

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 [[n fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset—rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world, 1 Peter 5:7-9.

In the passage above, one of Jesus’ disciples suggests that trouble can be inflicted by invisible spiritual forces. Peter uses the analogy of a predator seeking out a weak or wounded prey, waiting for the right time to go in for the kill. Perhaps, Peter is eluding to the time he caved to peer pressure by denying to know Jesus three times in public. Sinful human beings will never escape trouble. However, as individuals learn to grow and mature, look for the way out of any temptation before all hope is lost, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

by Jay Mankus

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