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Escaping the Snares of the Devil

One of the motivating forces for me to become a Bible Teacher was to warn high school students of the mistakes that I made when I was their age. Instead of using the expression of escaping the snares of the Devil, I regularly shared stories from my own life. Instead of giving students a license to sin by saying everybody does it, I revealed how you can overcome temptation as well as what happened when I stumbled and fell spiritually.

He must correct his opponents with courtesy and gentleness, in the hope that God may grant that they will repent and come to know the Truth [that they will perceive and recognize and become accurately acquainted with and acknowledge it], 26 And that they may come to their senses [and] escape out of the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him, [henceforth] to do His [God’s] will, 2 Timothy 2:25-26.

One of the requested stories that I shared with every class was my seat belt story. This parable illustrated what happens when you’re focused on God and when you’re not. I spent my first summer as a college student working as a Camp Counselor for a day camp five days a week. Over Thanksgiving break we had a camp reunion at a banquet hall. Before leaving, one of my counselors in training asked me for a ride home. This is where the story gets good.

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 [[f]in 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 ([g]identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world, 1 Peter 5:8-9.

The Devil goes fishing every day, throwing out bait laced with addiction, bad habits and cravings. Once you take a bite, it’s only a matter of time before the Devil has you hooked. As for the ride home, this girl lived in a house with a long driveway. When I reached the back door, she said that her seat belt was stuck. Without a thought, I reached over to unlock her belt. Based upon the look on her face, I realized on my ride home this was just a ploy for me to kiss her. When your mind is focused on God, choosing the way out of temptation is unveiled, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

by Jay Mankus

Reproofs and Consequences

The term “Reprove” comes from Elizabethan English. The biblical definition of reproof has a variety of meanings depending upon the context. A reproof could refer to convince, disprove, rebuke or reject. In many cases, reproofs occur when a spiritual leader catches a believer doing or saying something that is out of character. While most churches have become too lenient on Christians living outside of church, a reproof is designed to correct wrong behavior.

To keep you from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a loose woman. 25 Lust not after her beauty in your heart, neither let her capture you with her eyelids. 26 For on account of a harlot a man is brought to a piece of bread, and the adulteress stalks and snares [as with a hook] the precious life [of a man], Proverbs 6:24-26.

While God promises to forgive those who repent, the consequences for any sin remains. In the passage above, King Solomon uses the example of a lonely man who seeks to fulfill his sexual desires with a one night stand. However, whenever two individuals participate in a sexual encounter, soul ties are developed and last long after this one excursion. Like any type of addiction or bad habit, inner cravings continue to grow via temptation until you are lured into another comprising position, James 1:13-15.

Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, doing evil in His sight? You have slain Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife. You have murdered him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because [you have not only despised My command, but] you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. 11 Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your [a]own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun, [Fulfilled in II Sam. 16:21, 22.] 2 Samuel 12:9-12.

No one is exempt from the consequences of sin, even if you are a man or woman after God’s own heart. In the passage above, the prophet Samuel shares the penalty for David’s act of adultery and murder. Unfortunately, David got a taste of the expression “what comes around goes around.” Reaping the seeds of sin, David’s family and life became a living nightmare. May the consequences of sin strike a nerve in your heart so that you’ll learn quickly from the next reproof that you receive.

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

Spiritual Liberation

Liberation is the act of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery, or oppression. This release results in deliverance, relief and salvation. According to the Bible, no human being can liberate themselves spiritually. Despite whatever good intentions that you may have, everyone possesses a fatal flaw. Whether this takes the form of an addiction, bad habit, or a weakness, human nature will feed these cravings, desires, and longings throughout the course of your life.

As it is written, None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no, not one. 11 No one understands [no one intelligently discerns or comprehends]; no one seeks out God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have gone wrong and have become unprofitable and worthless; no one does right, not even one! – Romans 3:10-12

This painful reality creates a felt need within human hearts for a Savior. Unfortunately, many attempt to fill this void with alternatives and substitutes. Whether you follow the path of a prodigal in Luke 15 or chase after the meaning in life, there is a book that holds all the answers, John 3:16-17. Nonetheless, if you force people instead of letting individuals search on their own, faith can’t be assigned and is something that must be personally embraced, Romans 6:23.

In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off], Galatians 5:1.

While studying the origins of past Great Awakenings in seminary, spiritual liberation begins with a spirit of confession. However, this requires someone to become vulnerable, pouring out their heart and soul to a congregation or gathered audience. This isn’t an act or something that can be faked. Rather, when secret sins are laid bare for all to hear and see, others feel compelled to reveal their own dirty laundry. Therefore, if you want to experience spiritual liberation, get your life right with God by confessing your wrongful acts in prayer.

by Jay Mankus

More Than Just a Strange Thing

Stranger Things is an American science fiction horror show which is currently in the middle of its third season on Netflix.  This television series was created, written and directed by two brothers, Matt and Ross Duffer.  The setting of this show takes place back in the 1980’s, an era where it was common for teenager boys to binge on playing video games.  This passion or should I say addiction causes many boys to lose touch with reality.  Today, this obsession continues as many boys and girls are consumed by modern online games like Fort Nite.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?  Who has strife? Who has complaining?  Who has wounds without cause?  Whose eyes are red and dim? – Proverbs 23:29

In a recent episode of Stranger Things, social media exploded over their reaction between a scene with two teenage boys.  To avoid a spoiler alert, two characters get into an argument about girls.  One boy wants to pursue a girl that he likes while the other is not ready to grow up, clinging to his love for video games.  Unfortunately, this innocent scene has led a number of people on twitter to question the gender of this boy who doesn’t like girls at this time.  This is just another example of individuals reading way too much into a fictional show.

Your [drunken] eyes will see strange things and your mind will utter perverse things [untrue things, twisted things], Proverbs 23:33.

In 1997, the band Common Children released the song Strange Rain on their Delicate Fade album.  The lyrics of Strange Rain refers to the washing away of innocence.  The more children are exposed to adult content, growing up is accelerated.  In the second stanza of Strange Rain one line strikes a cord with me “when wonder fades in time forgive us for this crime.”  The more young children experience, hear or see things that they shouldn’t, innocence is stolen and wonder for life fades away.  While parents try to shield their children from danger, strangers things lurk around every corner.  This is where trusting God becomes essential.

by Jay Mankus

The Story Behind A Just Cause

To be just refers to being fair and impartial.  The Bible details God’s hatred of those who have been mistreated and oppressed.  The term civil refers to behaving according to what is morally right within a just and democratic society.  The story behind this concept begins as God uses guilt as a just cause to convict sin despite being invisible (before the actual act) to the human eye.

But each one is tempted when he is dragged away, enticed and baited [to commit sin] by his own [worldly] desire (lust, passion), James 1:14.

While individuals may be able to deceive other human beings for an extended period of time, the truth will come out over eventually.  Whether it’s an addiction, a crime or shocking act, the Bible reveals what happens inside the soul before the act of sin emerges.  Seeds are planted within minds, temptation waters these thoughts until desire, lust and worldly passion drags the next unlikely candidate down a dark path.

Then when the illicit desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin has run its course, it gives birth to death, James 1:15.

Sadly, headlines from the internet, newspaper or tabloids is the end result of the sinful nature getting the best of a weakened and vulnerable person.  After any fall, just as God sends guilt, humbled hearts open the door for forgiveness.  To those who comes to their senses, seeking reconciliation, the Holy Spirit moves toward the broken-hearted and crushed in spirit.  While this is often not seen in this light, God demonstrates a just cause by extending grace and mercy to the contrite.  May these words help you get over failure by embracing God’s forgiveness.

by Jay Mankus

 

Addiction and Dieting

The Bible blames addiction on a hidden force within human bodies.  The apostle Paul refers to this as fleshly desires, a nature that leads individuals to give into sin.  Prior to the introduction of a spiritual law, this sinful nature went unnoticed, accepted as a part of life.  However, when you apply biblical principles to addiction and dieting, a first century Christian makes a shocking revelation.

We know that the Law is spiritual, but I am a creature of the flesh [worldly, self-reliant—carnal and unspiritual], sold into slavery to sin [and serving under its control]. 15 For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled and bewildered by them]. I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity], Romans 7:14-15.

No matter how hard you try to do the right thing, carnal, unspiritual and worldly influences often lead people to do the exact opposite.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul uses baffled and bewildered to explain his addictive actions.  Like someone in need of rehab, Paul couldn’t control himself, doing the very thing that he hates.  While I have never been to a detox center, I hope that these words of the apostle Paul are applied to modern clinics to help people see that addiction and dieting have a spiritual connection.

But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts]. 17 For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do. 18 But if you are guided and led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the Law, Galatians 5:16-18.

Since the end of November, I have been forced to drastically change my diet due to major health concerns.  As I have tried to eat right the last two weeks, I have found that my body is addicted to unhealthy food.  Like an alcoholic longing for a drink, my body daily craves junk food, sugar and sweets.  In the passage above, the cure to overcoming any addiction is provided.  Within any decision that you make, there are two forces waging war to control your soul.  The sinful nature and the Holy Spirit are like an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other, whispering into each ear.  Until individuals learn to habitually walk in the Holy Spirit, to keep in step with God’s Word, Galatians 5:25, success will be limited.  However, the more you apply these principles to addictions, bad habits and dieting, God can and will transform your life.

by Jay Mankus

Relapse

Backslide, deteriorate, revert and sink are words associated with relapse.  This condition is a byproduct of falling back into old habits.  Whether someone becomes lazy, out of sync or unfocused, it doesn’t take much for human beings to drift back into patterns of their childhood.  Perhaps, this explains why addiction is so hard to beat as weakened souls are often sucked back by demons of your past.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil, 1 John 3:8.

The average person doesn’t wake up eager to sin, longing to worship the devil.  Rather, the practice of sinning is conceived within minds.  Subtle thoughts set the process of temptation into motion.  Whenever anyone strays slightly from God’s commands, compromise gives birth to a lowering of personal standards.  For those heading off in this direction, relapse is inevitable.  Yet, many are surprised by how far and quickly this downward spiral occurs.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God,” Luke 9:62.

The context of the passage above refers to someone who wanted to be one of Jesus’ disciples.  The individual who is turned down by Jesus simply wanted to say goodbye to his family.  Yet, the point Jesus was trying to make is that people who have a tendency to relapse won’t set a godly example for others to follow.  In the last month, conviction has pierced my heart as my own life has been a poor model, not fit for God’s kingdom.  I must confess that I have relapsed back to my shy days of an unconfident stutterer.  Instead of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, I am defeated, void of any spiritual victory.  Thus, I am in desperate need to heed the call of Silverline’s song, Never Look Back so I can begin to turn my life around.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Pathway to Addiction and Freedom

As a story teller, there was no one better during the first century than Jesus.  Appealing to visual learners, Jesus painted vivid pictures allowing the minds of listeners to follow along with each word.  Nearing the end of his sermon on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gives those in attendance two choices.  There are two different roads that you can follow in this life.  One leads to addiction, the other toward freedom.  You may have a great time on the popular path, but in the end you’ll be left with an eternal hangover.  Meanwhile, the path less traveled is a difficult journey, but the benefits to staying the course are eternal.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13-14.

After Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, one of Jesus’ disciples goes into greater detail about the broad road that leads to destruction.  John refers to emotions that keep individuals ensnared, paralyzed by lustful desires.  These cravings distract souls from any standards that they may have held, kept or were raised with prior to turning on to this interstate.  Lust, sensual desires and pride tend to blind those ashamed, guilty or filled with remorse by this change of course.  Unfortunately, the longer anyone stays on the path to addiction, the harder it becomes to leave for good.

Do not love the world [of sin that opposes God and His precepts], nor the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust and sensual craving of the flesh and the lust and longing of the eyes and the boastful pride of life [pretentious confidence in one’s resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father, but are from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and with it its lusts [the shameful pursuits and ungodly longings]; but the one who does the will of God and carries out His purposes lives forever, 1 John 2:15-17.

Instead of typical road signs that you may see everyday, the pathway to freedom contains God’s precepts.  These nuggets of truth preach an alternative message from the flashy advertisements on the highway to hell.  Words such as serve, surrender and selfless appeal to those searching for something deeper, pondering the meaning of life.  The further you travel along this barren road, the narrower it becomes.  Ideally, accountability partners, friends and mentors will encourage you to choose freedom over temporary pleasures.  To persist, press on and demonstrate resolve.  In the end, the choose is yours.  I’ll leave you with Moses’ farewell address to Israel, Deuteronomy 30:19, choose life.

by Jay Mankus

Self Medicating Pain

According to a 2017 article posted on The Upshot, Josh Katz uses new data to illustrate that drug deaths in America are rising faster than ever before.  Drug overdose claimed the lives of nearly 64,000 Americans in 2016.  A large majority of these deaths are being blamed on opioids, prompting a 2017 presidential commission to address this growing crisis.  Instead of coping with depression, an attempt to self medicate pain has resulted in deadly addictions nationwide.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” – Matthew 9:10-11.

During the first century, class warfare was commonly practiced to avoid negative influences from those who shared a different worldview.  This mindset caused religious leaders to question Jesus’ association with sinners, regularly dining and reaching out to social outcasts within society.  In the passage below, Jesus reveals the purpose for this unusual outreach.  If you read between the lines, the goal for any adult is learning how to take care of yourself.  This is a sign of maturity, being able to self medicate pain through spiritual practices.

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick, Matthew 9:12.

The apostle Paul shines light on how this is accomplished within Philippians 2:1-4.  The spiritual healthy gradually develop a Christ like mindset.  Before beginning every day, Jesus withdrew to a quiet place, often on a mountain top outside of where he was staying, void of distractions.  Essentially, Paul is suggesting you can’t help others until you take care of your own needs first.  When your daily devotions, prayer and reflection is complete each morning, you are primed to self medicate pain.  Until this process is complete, you won’t be any good to anyone.  Therefore, if you want to be healthy, not needing a doctor, start each day with a daily dose of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

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