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Getting Your House in Order in 2021

The Bible uses the term house when referring to the first century church. However, other verses suggest the mind of church leaders. Ideally, this is where the things of God’s will and understanding of faith forms a spiritual house. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul applies temple, usually associated with a place of worship, in connection with a human’s body. When you combine these two expressions, getting your house in order refers to cleansing and purging your body of your past to make room for God to abide and dwell within.

But when the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, it roams through dry [arid] places in search of rest, but it does not find any, Matthew 12:43.

In the passage above, Jesus is speaking to some religious leaders who are searching for a sign from God. Using an evil and adulterous generation as a transition, Jesus points to the spiritual realm that negatively influences broken, tired and weary souls. While freedom from addiction and bad habits is possible, the stronger the unclean spirits attached to individuals are, the harder it is to break free. Recovering addicts are never truly in the clear as when unclean spirits return, houses not in order will be easy prey as temptations intensify.

Then it says, I will go back to my house from which I came out. And when it arrives, it finds the place unoccupied, swept, put in order, and decorated. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and make their home there. And the last condition of that man becomes worse than the first. So also shall it be with this wicked generation, Matthew 12:44-45.

Most recovering addicts tend to have some form of accountability. Whether this involves a group that meets weekly, a mentor you stay in contact with monthly or a good friend who isn’t afraid to demonstrate tough love, accountability helps the weak begin their recovery. Nonetheless, only when reminders of addiction is purged and removed will the healing process progress. Therefore, if you want 2021 to be a year where freedom reigns, get your spiritual house in order this year.

by Jay Mankus

The Pilgrimage Known as Going to Church

Korah is one of the individuals who rebelled against Moses following the Exodus out of Egypt. According to Number 16:31-32, the earth swallowed up all of Korah’s household and possessions. While some of Korah’s descendants survived the wrath of God, they were barred from entering the tabernacle for 7 generations. Based upon the passage below, the sons of Korah were finally able to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship at God’s temple.

How lovely are Your tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns, yes, even pines and is homesick for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out and sing for joy to the living God. Yes, the sparrow has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young—even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence; they will be singing Your praises all the day long. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; the early rain also fills [the pools] with blessings. They go from strength to strength [increasing in victorious power]; each of them appears before God in Zion, Psalm 84:1-7.

Depending upon where you live in the United States, going to church in 2020 is much more complicated than it use to be. If you don’t call ahead, register or sign up on line, you probably won’t be able to attend due to limited numbers. Since the Coronavirus outbreak struck in the middle of March, churches have either gone virtual, transitioned to outdoor services or limited their attendance due to new state guidelines. Until a cure is discovered, weekly pilgrimages to church might have to be altered.

Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, Fair and beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth—[a]Mount Zion [the City of David], to the northern side [Mount Moriah and the temple], the [whole] city of the Great King! God has made Himself known in her palaces as a Refuge (a High Tower and a Stronghold), Psalm 48:1-3.

The concern for future generations is that teenagers will grow up without worship being part of their lives. While most congregations limits services to one day a week, accountability groups, Bible studies, fellowship and Sunday school classes play a key role in developing faith. Although some youth groups have used Zoom Chats to stay in touch, nothing can replace face to face interactions. Thus, as certain governors have enacted emergency orders to ban in person worship services, people of faith need to be creative. The goal is to do whatever it takes to make the pilgrimage to a local church possible once again.

by Jay Mankus

Be Ready to Punish Wayward Thoughts

Punishment is designed to inflict a penalty on someone or something. This form of a sanction serves as retribution for an offense, especially a transgression of a legal or moral code. If boundaries aren’t defined and standards not upheld, lawlessness will begin to run rampant. Thus, in the passage below the apostle Paul urges first century Christians to be ready to punish wayward thoughts.

[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One), 2 Corinthians 10:5.

This mentality is taking into account the spiritual dimension. While Solomon urged his sons to sharpen one another via accountability, Proverbs 27:17, spiritual discipline requires special weapons, 2 Corinthians 10:4. Instead of choosing a paddle that was once common to spank a child, spiritual weapons are meant to overthrow and destroy strongholds. Similar to the ancient practice of purging, taking thoughts captives takes effort.

Being in readiness to punish every [insubordinate for his] disobedience, when your own submission and obedience [as a church] are fully secured and complete, 2 Corinthians 10:6.

Just as teetotalers use abstinence to halt wayward thoughts, obedience to Christ is the force that keep weak bodies in check. Realizing that many Israelites were vulnerable to conforming to other beliefs and cultures, Joshua urges those ready to enter God’s Promised Land to meditate on the Torah day and night. These first five books of the Bible clearly define God’s expectations. Therefore, the best way to punish wayward thoughts is through the practice of Bible memorization to recall right from wrong.

by Jay Mankus

Cultivating Spiritual Gifts

A spiritual gift is a God-given capability that becomes available to individuals who enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-10. This hidden skill is available to Christians upon receipt of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-25.  The purpose of God’s spiritual counselor is for carrying out a believers specific function in the body of Christ, which is the Church, John 16:13. Thus, cultivating this inherited talent through a development process is crucial to maximizing this spiritual ability.

But earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces (the higher gifts and the choicest graces). And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one that is better by far and the highest of them all—love], 1 Corinthians 12:31.

According to the apostle Paul, this begins with an earnest desire to draw closer to God. As this relationship strengthens, a zeal is conceived to ascertain, determine, and uncover God’s will for your life, Romans 12:1-2. As your spiritual gift is unveiled over time, God doesn’t want an average or mediocre attempt. Rather, the Lord is looking for your very best effort to unleash best and greatest spiritual gifts on earth. However, cultivating these talents doesn’t stop here.

I am calling up memories of your sincere and unqualified faith (the) leaning of your entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness), [a faith] that first lived permanently in [the heart of] your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am [fully] persuaded, [dwells] in you also. That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination], 2 Timothy 1:5-6.

In a letter to a teenage pastor, Paul writes about the leaning of your entire personality on God. Instead of holding back certain aspects or parts of your life, make Jesus the Lord of your life by surrendering everything. Since this is a continuous and daily process, spiritual gifts should not remain idle. Rather, fan into flame your God given gift to help your local church and community. King Solomon urges God’s people to rely on like minded people to cultivate and sharpen your gifts, Proverbs 27:17.

by Jay Mankus

Recovering from a Spiritual Hangover

Hangovers from drinking are a chain of reactions going on within your body following the consumption of alcohol. Once inside your body, alcohol affects your gastrointestinal tract, urine production, and blood sugar levels. Depending upon your age, gender, and weight, hangovers result in fatigue, headaches, cognitive, mood, and sensory issues. Meanwhile, biological rhythms and sleep patterns are hindered as individuals attempt to recover from these painful experiences.

For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do, Galatians 5:17.

According to the apostle Paul, alcohol is merely one aspect in life that is abused. Anger, bitterness, conflict, division, envy, and sexual desires are avenues that can result in spiritual hangovers. Following an emotional outburst, fits of rage or a second glance, the human conscience will begin to reveal symptoms of this spiritual condition. Any combination of conviction, guilt, remorse, and shame will rock human souls. King David compares a spiritual hangover to having your energy zapped by heat and humidity, Psalm 32:3-4.

Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency, 20 Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), 21 Envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God, Galatians 5:19-21.

The apostle Paul suggests that the road to recovery begins by keeping in alignment with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25. The first step to recovery begins by acknowledging that you have a sin problem, unable to control one or more fleshly desires. Just as alcoholics rely on anonymous groups, Christians should search to find a small group that serves as a form of accountability. While it may take some time to feel comfortable to bear your soul to strangers, the sooner you confess, the better you’ll feel. However, remember that life is a marathon so pace yourself by walking with God, Hebrews 12:1-2. May your recovery go well, without any relapses.

by Jay Mankus

Inviting the Holy Ghost into Your Home

As COVID-19 quarantines remain in place within several states, houses of worship are being forced to become creative. To ensure that their members return once churches are allowed to reopen, preachers, priests and teachers are gearing their messages toward this crisis. While listening to Jentezen Franklin’s sermon on TBN, he told a story from his childhood. Whenever visiting his grandfather’s house, the largest room was turned into a make shift worship service, inviting the Holy Ghost into this place.

And on the first day of the week, when we were assembled together to break bread [the Lord’s Supper], Paul discoursed with them, intending to leave the next morning; and he kept on with his message until midnight. Now there were numerous lights in the upper room where we were assembled, And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting in the window. He was borne down with deep sleep as Paul kept on talking still longer, and [finally] completely overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was picked up dead, Acts 20:7-9.

During the first century, Christians met in homes or outside in open areas. Instead of gathering in a centralized large building, churches met inside the homes of leaders or the wealthy who volunteered to host. Luke writes about one such service which took place in Troas. Apparently, the apostle Paul became long winded speaking until midnight. Meeting in a third story attic, a teenage boy began to fall asleep, moving toward an open window, trying to stay awake. Eutychus’ fall opened the door for a powerful healing.

But Paul went down and bent over him and embraced him, saying, Make no ado; his life is within him. 11 When Paul had gone back upstairs and had broken bread and eaten [with them], and after he had talked confidentially and communed with them for a considerable time—until daybreak [in fact]—he departed, Acts 20:10-11.

As modern believers open their homes to accountability groups, Bible Studies or prayer meetings, relationships begin to form. Instead of dreading attending a long service, these newly formed friendships turn a weekly event into an experience. However, until churches open their doors once again, the best thing you can do now is invite the Holy Ghost into your home. Acts 19:2 asks the question, “have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?” Thus, before you can invite this Spirit, you must first receive it as your own, Romans 10:9-10.

by Jay Mankus

Where Did My Love Go?

Whenever I have been active in a church, there was always someone around to hold me accountable. If I started to backslide, regress or slip into tempting situations, Christian brothers and sisters felt compelled to correct or rebuke the error of my ways. However, now that most church services have been cancelled, only accessible through live streaming, the body of Christ has been separated. Thus, as I drift closer to my perfectionist past, my love which one shined bright has faded.

And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody), 1 Corinthians 13:2.

As the son of an immigrant, I have inherited several of my father’s traits. While dedication, focus and being serious aren’t bad, I tend to drown out everyone else, like a race horse with blinders on. The lack of a friend to point me in the right direction has hindered my ability to love. Although I may be able to reach others through this blog, the apostle Paul has harsh words for those who fail to demonstrate love. Whatever spiritual gift you possess is designed to be exercised and inspired by love. However, when love is absent, you gain nothing.

Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing, 1 Corinthians 13:3.

While reading 1 Corinthians 13 last week, a spirit of conviction consumed my soul. For some reason, I thought I could substitute love with another quality. Instead of putting on love by becoming the hands and feet of Christ, I tried to do this on my own, failing miserably. Reading Bible passages on love has started my recovery, but this doesn’t replace King Solomon’s solution. Proverbs 27:17 uses the analogy of sharpening a sword, suggesting that relationships between Christians sharpen one another. Therefore, if I want to reignite my heart with love, a godly mentor is the answer is restore my love.

by Jay Mankus

Two Elements of Transformation

Before a dramatic and thorough change occurs within the life of a human being, there is usually a series of events that serve as a catalyst. Some people have to hit rock bottom before coming to their senses. Others go through some sort of near death experience before their soul is awakened. As for me, I suffered a nervous breakdown in high school before God set the stage for my heart to finally be open to receiving the good news about Jesus Christ.

Then Jesus answered him, “Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, favored by God] are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood (mortal man) did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades (death) will not overpower it [by preventing the resurrection of the Christ], Matthew 16:17-18.

After Jesus suffered, died on a cross, rose again and ascended into heaven, Jesus sent an invisible counselor to carry on the ministry he began on earth. The venue in which this movement continues in is the church. While not every congregation has a physical building, the church is the cornerstone for faith. After following the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 10:9-10, the church is the vehicle through which spiritual transformation occurs. Accountability, confession, fellowship, prayer and worship are methods through which each believer undergoes the sanctification process.

Now I say this, believers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit nor be part of the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable (mortal) inherit the imperishable (immortal). 51 Listen very carefully, I tell you a mystery [a secret truth decreed by God and previously hidden, but now revealed]; we will not all sleep [in death], but we will all be [completely] changed [wondrously transformed], 1 Corinthians 15:50-51.

The final element of transformation is the cross. A common analogy refers to crossing out the I in self to become a member of God’s team. This commitment involves denying your own aspirations, dreams and goals on earth. According to Jesus, the only way to find life is by giving it up, losing it to follow the cross of Christ. This decision is often met with rejection from friends, family and neighbors. Nonetheless, if you truly want to fulfill God’s will by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, you heart will begin to cry out in prayer, “not mine, but your will be done.”

by Jay Mankus

Estranged

When love is absent, conditions can deteriorate.  If this negative climate persists, relationships can be torn apart.  By products of this atmosphere result in arguments, fights and misery.  Without reconciliation, family, friends and relatives can become estranged.  This tension creates a dysfunctional mood at an family gathering or reunion.

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12.

The Bible refers to estranged in context of a relationship with God.  Any type of sin separates individuals from God.  In the Old Testament, Israel was given the Torah as a set of standards for life.  Breaking, cutting corners or slightly deviating from these laws is described as a willful act of disobedience.  Deuteronomy 28 contains a list of blessings for those who obey God, ending with a much longer list of consequences called curses.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near, Hebrews 10:24-25.

A first century Jewish convert to Christianity wrote the book of Hebrews.  In the passage above, advice is provided to restore estranged relationships.  Accountability serves as a tool to sharpen one another spiritually.  While this takes place in the form as a Bible Study, prayer or sharing group, these fellowships promote healing and forgiveness.  If you find yourself in a relationship drifting away or falling apart, take steps now so that these precious bonds are not severed permanently.

by Jay Mankus

Trying to Heal a Defiled Heart

If you maintain a burdensome schedule each week, finding time to take an honest assessment of your life isn’t easy to do.  Most busy people press on. ignoring any signs, symptoms or traces of trouble.  When a state of emergency was issued for Delaware during the fourth snow storm in March, I was forced to slow down, unable to go to work.  After reading the passage below, an overwhelming sense of guilt struck my soul, exposing a defiled heart.

After He called the people to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen [carefully] to Me, all of you, [hear] and understand [what I am saying]: there is nothing outside a man [such as food] which by going into him can defile him [morally or spiritually]; but the things which come out of [the heart of] a man are what defile and dishonor him. 16 [If anyone has ears to hear, let him he}” Mark 7:15-16.

As a former high school teacher, I gave my students some sort of assessment every 3 weeks.  Homework, papers, quizzes and exams were given during each unit to reveal the degree of comprehension.  Unfortunately, after graduating from high school or college, adults rarely think about assessing their faith like educators.  This lack of reflection often hides glaring issues.  As for me, a lack of candor has brought to light a defiled heart.

For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. 44 For each tree is known and identified by its own fruit. For figs are not picked from thorn bushes, nor is a cluster of grapes picked from a briar bush. 45 The [intrinsically] good man produces what is good and honorable and moral out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart; and the [intrinsically] evil man produces what is wicked and depraved out of the evil [in his heart]; for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart, Luke 6:43-45.

According to Jesus, your choice of language provides immediate feedback to what’s in your heart.  If you find yourself using coarse joking, put downs or sarcasm, this serves as a warning of a heart in grave condition.  In order to take a positive step forward, confession is the best place to start, James 5:16.  If your language does not improve, finding an accountability partner can help turn your life around.  While transformation takes time, meditating on Bible verses, prayer and fasting are all honorable steps toward healing a defiled heart.

by Jay Mankus

 

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