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Counterfeit, Imitation or Emulation?

As a former Store Manager for Michael Jordan Golf, I was trained to identify counterfeit bills. While working at Woodfield Mall in Chicago, I came face to face with a shop lifting ring. This group of individuals staged two different distractions in the store seconds a part so that the mastermind could pull off another heist. After talking with the Mall Police, I was educated and prepared for future groups that tried to imitate a regular shopper.

And what this love consists in is this: that we live and walk in accordance with and guided by His commandments (His orders, ordinances, precepts, teaching). This is the commandment, as you have heard from the beginning, that you continue to walk in love [guided by it and following it]. For many imposters (seducers, deceivers, and false leaders) have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge (confess, admit) the coming of Jesus Christ (the Messiah) in bodily form. Such a one is the imposter (the seducer, the deceiver, the false leader, the antagonist of Christ) and the antichrist, 2 John 1:6-7.

Light and darkness is a common theme in the Bible. There are 433 instances where the imagery of light appears. One of the simplicities of Jesus’ teaching is how to recognize the genuine from the fake. True followers are identified as the light of the world and salt of the earth in Matthew 5:13-16. Meanwhile, the counterfeit are easily exposed by the darkness of their deeds. One of Jesus’ disciples passes on this concept based upon how you live and walk.

Now just as Jannes and Jambres were hostile to and resisted Moses, so these men also are hostile to and oppose the Truth. They have depraved and distorted minds, and are reprobate and counterfeit and to be rejected as far as the faith is concerned, 2 Timothy 3:8.

Actions, deeds and words will eventually reveal if you are a genuine follower of Jesus or merely pretending. The apostle Paul makes an example of two individuals who were part of God’s chosen people, but were just going along with the crowd, waiting to enter the promised land. Not much as changed today as everyone has a reason, justification for why they live the way they do. Nonetheless, until you begin to become imitators of God, don’t be surprised when you start trying to blend in like a chameleon.

by Jay Mankus

How Can You Love Your Neighbor When You Hate The Person You’ve Become?

Clive Staples Lewis was an atheist and British writer before becoming a lay theologian. C.S. Lewis once contemplated the concept of loving your neighbor. The following quote reveals his thoughts. You are told to love your neighbor as yourself. How do you love yourself? When I look into my own mind, I find that I do not love myself by thinking myself a dear old chap or having affectionate feelings.” This same dilemma exists today as how can you love your neighbor when many people don’t like the person they’ve become.

Teacher, which [e]kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?] 37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect), Matthew 22:36-37.

Following a series of parables, Jesus is asked by a religious leader a spiritual question. “What’s the most important commandment?” Instead of de-emphasizing the other 9 from the most essential, Jesus divides the commandments into two parts. The first 4 commandments are based upon loving God with the final 6 focused on loving your neighbor. When Christians began to love God with all their hearts, soul and mind, the practice of religion turns into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. 40 These two commandments [f]sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets, Matthew 22:38-40.

When hearts grow cold, love stops naturally flowing out of human beings. If faith is not revived or resuscitated, this lack of love can slowly turn into self hatred for oneself. When sources for love dry up, there is no positivity that bubbles over on to the people you interact with daily. The longer this subtle decay continues, there is no inspiration to love friends and family. The key to loving your neighbor is to tap into the love of God, John 3:16-17. As individuals begin to feel and sense God’s love, desires to pass this on to others is restored. Unfortunately, healing take time. Just hang in there long enough for restoration to ignite your heart with the love of God.

by Jay Mankus

A Final Word about Spiritual War

Most epistles of the apostle Paul end with salutations and thanking those individuals helping behind the scenes. Instead of devoting the final chapter of Ephesians to this practice, Paul provides a final word about the invisible war in the spiritual dimension. At the conclusion of this warning, Paul does squeeze in four verses to thank Tychicus for his faithful service. Yet, it is what comes before this which you should pay close attention to and grasp.

In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides]. 11 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, Ephesians 6:10-11.

Perhaps Paul is referencing his confession in 2 Corinthians 12:7-12. When Paul says “be strong in the Lord,” this may be code for at your greatest moment of need or weakness, place your full confidence and trust in Jesus. Yet, there is more to know about the ongoing spiritual war. While imprisoned at the time Paul wrote Ephesians, Paul appears to have a vision, comparing the Roman soldier standing guard outside his door with necessary spiritual armor.

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. 13 Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place], Ephesians 6:12-13.

Since the reality of the passage above is overwhelming, Paul offers spiritual weapons that Christians can use before entering spiritual combat. This attire contains a belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, cleats to dig in, a shield of faith and helmet of salvation, Ephesians 6:14-17. These first five pieces of armor are defensive in nature. However, when believers take up the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, you can begin to go on the offensive. While defense is important in the realm of sports, being proactive and going on the offensive is crucial to taking back lost ground.

by Jay Mankus

Let Your War Cry Be Praise

If you are a student of history, you can learn from past events to enhance your chances of succeeding in the future. Such is the case of Joshua who was chosen to lead Israel into God’s Promised Land. During a battle against the Amalekites, Joshua followed the advice given to him by Moses. On the surface this sounded crazy, but low and behold as long as Moses held his hands high, Israel prevailed, Exodus 17:9-11. Perhaps this one event opened Joshua’s mind to the concept of letting your war cry be the praise of God.

And the Lord said to Joshua, See, I have given Jericho, its king and mighty men of valor, into your hands. You shall march around the enclosure, all the men of war going around the city once. This you shall do for six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns; and on the seventh day you shall march around the enclosure seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets, Joshua 6:2-4.

The boundaries of the ancient land of Canaan included the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, west of the Jordan River. The last step toward taking possession of God’s promised land was conquering the city of Jericho. The greatest obstacle to taking control of Jericho was the vast wall surrounding this city. As strange as it may sound, the Lord gave Joshua unusual instructions in the passage above. Yet, this master plan didn’t seem like a logical idea. Nonetheless, Joshua believed and trusted God, passing on these directions to the entire nation of Israel.

So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. When the people heard the sound of the trumpet, they raised a great shout, and [Jericho’s] wall fell down in its place, so that the [Israelites] went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 Then they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox, sheep, and donkey, with the edge of the sword. 22 But Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, Go into the harlot’s house and bring out the woman and all she has, as you swore to her, Joshua 6:20-22.

Instead of picking up traditional weapons of war, a marching band started their procession. For 6 days, the ark of the covenant was carried along the external walls, once a day with the trumpet section leading the way. On the 7th and final day of God’s plan, this marching band let in rip like an excited progressive band during a competition. Once everyone received the signal from their leader, a war cry of praise in accompany with trumpets hit one of the highest decibels recorded in the Bible. The next time you witness the Lord do the impossible, let your war cry be praise.

by Jay Mankus

The Last Temptation

The Last Temptation of Christ was a controversial film directed by Martin Scorsese. This 1988 movie deviated from the New Testament Scripture Hebrews 4:14-16, using a what if concept to imply Jesus gave into a final temptation. Yet, one of Jesus’ disciples tells the real story in the passage below. The first temptation focuses on physical desires. The second temptation is like a dare given by teenage friends that tests human minds. However, it’s the last temptation which most people can relate to, exchanging eternity in heaven for temporary control and power on earth.

Then Jesus was led (guided) by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness (desert) to be tempted (tested and tried) by the devil. And He went without food for forty days and forty nights, and later He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, If You are God’s Son, command these stones to be made [[a]loaves of] bread. But He replied, It has been written, Man shall not live and be upheld and sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God, Matthew 4:1-4.

This is not to diminish the first two temptations as many human beings struggle with food and beverage addictions. Nor I am overlooking anorexia and bulimia that has a way of paralyzing countless souls. Trying to prove oneself often leads to mind games similar to that which the serpent played with Adam and Eve. Yet, the idea of possessing control and power over others is too good to pass up. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at all the life long congress men and women who will do whatever it takes to get re-elected no matter what the cost or consequences.

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and placed Him on [b]a turret (pinnacle, [c]gable) of the temple [d]sanctuary. And he said to Him, If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, He will give His angels charge over you, and they will bear you up on their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone. Jesus said to him, [e]On the other hand, it is written also, You shall not tempt, [f]test thoroughly, or [g]try exceedingly the Lord your God, Matthew 4:5-7.

Using his charm as a former archangel, the devil takes Jesus to the highest mountain in the Middle East. Despite being tired and hungry from fasting for 40 days, Jesus doesn’t fall for this attention seeking ploy. Remembering the first commandment written down my Moses, Jesus doesn’t waste time, quickly rejecting the Devil’s final temptation. Unfortunately, many human beings end up like Eve in the Garden of Eden, considering the possibilities of the Tree of Knowledge. There is nothing new about New Age philosophies except for the people pushing them.

Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory (the splendor, magnificence, preeminence, and excellence) of them. And he said to Him, These things, all taken together, I will give You, if You will prostrate Yourself before me and do homage and worship me. 10 Then Jesus said to him, Begone, Satan! For it has been written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him alone shall you serve. 11 Then the devil departed from Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him, Matthew 4:8-11.

This leads me to the question: why are so many Christians unable to resist temptation? What causes the masses to cave to forbidden fruit by indulging in temporary pleasures? Is this more a byproduct of a hollow faith or merely a sign of spiritual immaturity? Whatever the reason, Christians need to be more like the individual in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12. Perhaps it’s time to look at the person in the mirror to see who you have really become. In the meantime, stopping looking for excuses to keep sinning by start scanning the room for an escape route, the way out of temptation, 1 Corinthians 10:11-13.

by Jay Mankus

When I Ran out of that Grave

According to the apostle Paul, more than 500 people witnessed Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Sometime before Passion Week, Jesus performed a miracle, raising his good friend Lazarus from the dead. While Jesus was dead for three days, Lazarus had been dead for four days. An eye witness of this amazing feat writes about the stench from Lazarus’ decaying body. Nonetheless, moments later Lazarus ran of this grave to embrace friends and family.

Jesus said, Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of the dead man, exclaimed, But Lord, by this time he [is decaying and] throws off an offensive odor, for he has been dead four days! 40 Jesus said to her, Did I not tell you and [a]promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you would see the glory of God? 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 Yes, I know You always hear and listen to Me, but I have said this on account of and for the benefit of the people standing around, so that they may believe that You did send Me [that You have made Me Your Messenger], John 11:39-42.

In one of the apostle Paul’s letters, he refers to Jesus’ resurrection as swallowing up death, 1 Corinthians 15:53-58. This one event has changed the course of history. While Jewish religious leaders bribed Roman soldiers to claim that Jesus’ disciples stole and hid his body, Matthew 28:12-15, those who saw Jesus ascend into heaven quickly disposed of this lie, Acts 1:8-11. When Jesus cancelled the written code of death, Colossians 2:13-15, this one miracle opened the door for eternal life.

When He had said this, He shouted with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out! 44 And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go, John 11:43-44.

In John 21, Jesus appears before his disciples for a third time in his resurrected body. Yet, the scars of the nails that held Jesus to a cross could be felt by a doubting Thomas. While 99.9% of human beings will never experience or see a modern resurrection, for those who pass away on earth, your grave clothes are temporary. For as soon as Jesus returns for His second coming, the dead will arise, run out of their graves and then lifted up to heaven for eternity.

by Jay Mankus

Going Off to an Invisible War

When individuals turn 18 in the United States, you can register to vote and enlist into the military if that is the path you want to choose. Prior to January 27th 1973, young men were forced to serve this country via a draft. Today, nearly 60 countries around the world still have some form of service conscription. As for modern day Christians, instead of heading off to boot camp for training, all you need to find is a quiet before going off to an invisible war.

But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open, Matthew 6:6.

This concept was first introduced by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. The context of this passage was to ensure that prayer was done in a private setting, not as a way to show off in public as some Pharisees were doing. Jesus didn’t just preach to the masses, He lived out biblical disciplines. One of the apostle Paul’s ministry helpers recalls the time Jesus went missing in the middle of the night. As the disciples began to panic, Jesus was merely going off to an invisible war.

And in the morning, long before daylight, He got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed. 36 And Simon [Peter] and those who were with him followed Him pursuing Him eagerly and hunting Him out], 37 And they found Him and said to Him, Everybody is looking for You. 38 And He said to them, Let us be going on into the neighboring country towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out, Mark 1:35-38.

Jesus went for a walk before sunset, finding a quiet place to begin his day with prayer. While Mark does not provide the length of time spent out in the wilderness, Jesus likely prayed for more than an hour, possibly two. As Jesus arose from this spiritual battle on his knees, He was armed with exactly where to go and what to do. As King Solomon once wrote about, “many are the plan’s in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose prevail,” Proverbs 19:21. This is what it means to go off to an invisible war.

by Jay Mankus

Seductive Impulses

Seduction is usually associated with persuading someone to have sex. Yet, there are multiple meanings which illustrate what individuals experience as seductive impulses ignite fleshly desires. This persuasion toward disobedience takes away the innocence of children as well as the curious and naive. Just as a cunning serpent planted a lie within Eve’s mind, the longer human beings contemplate bending a rule, seductive impulses intensify, Genesis 3:1-6.

For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]. Avoid [all] such people [turn away from them]. For among them are those who worm their way into homes and captivate silly and weak-natured and spiritually dwarfed women, loaded down with [the burden of their] sins [and easily] swayed and led away by various evil desires and seductive impulses, 2 Timothy 3:5-6.

The context of the passage above is based upon the end of days. Verses 2-4 is a list of actions, behaviors and choices that individuals will pursue prior to Jesus’ Second Coming. In another passage on End Times, Jesus states that the love of many will grow cold, Matthew 24:12. When you find yourself surrounded by people who don’t care anymore, seductive impulses become more attractive as consequences for disobedience are ignored.

Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one. 14 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, James 1:13-15.

Meanwhile, the earthly brother of Jesus provides one of the best spiritual illustrations on seductive impulses. Temptation is compared to a fishing trip. However, in this analogy Satan is the fisherman and you are the fish. When seductive impulses are dangled in front of you, how will you respond? If Satan knows all of your weaknesses, will you be able to resist lustful passions? Before sin is conceived, look for a way out so that you aren’t the next saint to have a fall from grace, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

by Jay Mankus

Just Make Up Your Mind

Analysis paralysis occurs when an individual overthinks all of the possible alternatives. This mind numbing process often prevents you from making an important decision. I tend to narrow my choices down to two or three things before deciding. When you’re buying a car or purchasing a home, the price or location will influence your finally decision. However, at some point you have to make up your mind and commit to a decision.

[These weak women will listen to anybody who will teach them]; they are forever inquiring and getting information, but are never able to arrive at a recognition and knowledge of the Truth. Now just as [a]Jannes and Jambres were hostile to and resisted Moses, so these men also are hostile to and oppose the Truth. They have depraved and distorted minds, and are reprobate and counterfeit and to be rejected as far as the faith is concerned, 2 Timothy 3:7-8.

Apparently, paralysis from over analysis isn’t new. In a first century letter, the apostle Paul addresses a group of women who were consumed by inquiring about and gathering information. All of this content clouded their minds as they were unable to make a decision about God’s Word. This refusal is compared to the actions of Jannes and Jambres who became hostile toward and resisted the teaching of Moses.

But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated. 15 But the spiritual man tries all things [he [g]examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things], yet is himself to be put on trial and judged by no one [he can read the meaning of everything, but no one can properly discern or appraise or get an insight into him], 1 Corinthians 2:14-15.

During a visit to Greece, Paul was frustrated by the philosophers who were full of knowledge, but lacked common sense. In the passage above, Paul reveals how the nonspiritual struggle to accept God’s existence. In the book Restoring the Foundations, this concept is referred to as ungodly beliefs. These beliefs are picked up via friends, parents and others throughout life. Until individuals gain access to the Holy Spirit by entering into a relationship with God, Romans 5:3-5, human beings will continue to struggle to make up their minds.

by Jay Mankus

Start Fighting on Your Knees

Affray, battles, conflict, defensives, riot, skirmish and violence are all words associated with fighting. Fights could be physical in nature where two opponents come together to settle a score. On the other hand, fights tend to be more passive aggressive where individuals practice back biting using gossip and slander as a weapon. In a letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul urges Christians to start fighting on their knees, Ephesians 6:10-20.

When I heard this, I sat down and wept and mourned for days and fasted and prayed [constantly] before the God of heaven, And I said, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, Who keeps covenant, loving-kindness, and mercy for those who love Him and keep His commandments, Nehemiah 1:4-5.

Upon receiving news of Israel’s defeat at the hands of Babylon, Nehemiah immediately lifts up his troubles to the Lord. Feeling helpless as a servant to the king of Persia, Nehemiah weeps, mourns, fasts and prays. When you’re not in a position to take action, your next best option is to start fighting on your knees. According to chapter 1, Nehemiah fasted and prayed for 4 months until he received a clear vision on how to respond to this dire situation.

Let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to listen to the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You day and night for the Israelites, Your servants, confessing the sins of the Israelites which we have sinned against You. Yes, I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, statutes, and ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses, Nehemiah 1:6-7.

In the 2015 film War Room, the tradition of Nehemiah is brought to light in a modern manner. An elderly woman of prayer develops a relationship with a younger woman whose family is falling a part. I guess when someone is desperate, you’ll try anything to turn your life around. Subsequently, this war room is a quiet place in your house that is devoted strictly to prayer. Once established in your current residence, you too can start fighting on your knees.

by Jay Mankus

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