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A Permanent Dwelling Place

The biblical city of Corinth is located in modern day Greece, southwest of Athens. According to Acts 17:16, the apostle Paul is grieved by a city full of idols. Based upon an encounter with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, Paul did find two positive signs. Using an altar dedicated to an unknown god and a poet who writes about being an offspring of God, Paul introduces the God of the Bible to the Greeks. Based upon the passages below, the Corinthians needed to abandon their current idols so that room could be made for a permanent dwelling place for God’s Spirit.

Do you not discern and understand that you [the whole church at Corinth] are God’s temple (His sanctuary), and that God’s Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you [to be at home in you, collectively as a church and also individually]? 17 If anyone does hurt to God’s temple or corrupts it [with false doctrines] or destroys it, God will do hurt to him and bring him to the corruption of death and destroy him. For the temple of God is holy (sacred to Him) and that [temple] you [the believing church and its individual believers] are, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.

Just as Jewish religious leaders viewed the temple as a physical building to worship God, Greeks possessed a similar mindset. Thus, Paul compares human bodies to a living spiritual temple. This inner sanctuary is where the Holy Spirit was designed to reside within your soul. However, until you recognize this spiritual truth, daily actions, choices and selfish decisions can corrupt, damage or hinder the Spirit’s ability to transform your life. Perhaps, this explains why Paul repeats himself three chapters later, using an analogy of a prostitute to grab a reader’s attention.

Or do you not know and realize that when a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? The two, it is written, shall become one flesh. 17 But the person who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him. 18 Shun immorality and all sexual looseness [flee from impurity in thought, word, or deed]. Any other sin which a man commits is one outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, 1 Corinthians 6:16-19.

Addressing ungodly relationships within the church, Paul adds a new dimension to human bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit. Most sins that individuals commit are external such as gossip, fits of rage or slander. However, any type of sexual sin in the form of sexual immorality harms your own body. While you may have desires to make a permanent dwelling place for the Holy Spirit, sin will shut the door, locking God out. The only way to repair your relationship with God is to be reunited by purging sexual sins from your life. Until your temple is swept clean from sin, the Spirit will only have a temporary home.

by Jay Mankus

The Spirit of the World

According to Luke, the apostle Paul spent a year and a half visiting the church of Corinth. Following a visit to Athens, Paul headed to southern Greece, Acts 18:1. Philosophy, the search for wisdom and worldly traditions was a common topic of conversation at local marketplaces. Opening minds in Corinth to the spiritual dimension appears to have hit a snag. Paul blames this on the Spirit of the World in his first letter to the church.

Now we have not received the spirit [that belongs to] the world, but the [Holy] Spirit Who is from God, [given to us] that we might realize and comprehend and appreciate the gifts [of divine favor and blessing so freely and lavishly] bestowed on us by God, 1 Corinthians 2:12.

This term is not limited to the book of Acts. Paul writes two letters to a teenager pastor named Timothy building upon this concept. 1 Timothy 4:1 warns of a time coming in the near future where individuals will reject faith in God. Instead, people will turn their attention toward deluding and seductive spirits. Paul doesn’t hold back his feelings, suggesting the Spirit of the World teaches doctrines influenced by demons.

For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, And will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions, 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

If you follow current events, listen to talk radio or watch cable news, it appears this time has arrived. The Me Too Movement comes alive when a Conservative or Republican is accused of sexual assault or rape. However, whenever a Democrat or Liberal politician is under a similar investigation, the leaders of Me Too and the mainstream media become silent. When you examine this silence with logic, the Spirit of the World isn’t willing to allow truth to enter it’s domain, Ephesians 6:12. Powers of darkness fuel this invisible fight to ensure worldly views overshadow biblical worldviews.

by Jay Mankus

Parental Discretion Advised

If you catch the very beginning of a televised movie or arrive early at a local theater, a disclaimer will flash across the screen. This statement is designed to warn viewers of what individuals are about to see. In legal terms, phrases such as “parental discretion is advised” enables those behind the making of a film to avoid liability or being held responsible for its content.

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was greatly angered when he saw that the city was full of idols, Acts 17:16.

As the apostle Paul visited the city of Athens, there was no warning. Instead of being prompted by parental discretion advised, Paul was bombarded by pornography. Some of these idols were dedicated to the goddess of love, celebrating, encouraging and promoting sexual immorality in the name of religion. This visual cesspool didn’t stop Paul for searching for positive signs of life. Like a rigid site seeing tour, Paul didn’t stop until discovering an altar and poem that spoke to his heart.

Now as I was going along and carefully looking at your objects of worship, I came to an altar with this inscription: ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you already worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you, Acts 17:23.

If Jesus and his disciples encountered this adult and mature content, I can imagine one of the disciples pleading with Jesus to call fire down from heaven to destroy Athens. Yet, Paul shows much more grace, engaging philosophers with an inscription and poetry. These two pieces of literature serve as a common ground, opening the door for the apostle Paul to share the good news about Jesus Christ with Greeks. Instead of being offended, Christians need to learn to engage other cultures by using apologetics, defending the Christian faith. This means leaving safe spaces to bring life to dark and immoral places, relying on the Holy Spirit as your guide.

by Jay Mankus

Haven’t You Heard…It is Written

A debate is a formal discussion on a particular topic in which opposing arguments are put forward.  In ancient Greece, philosophers went to the market place to exchange new ideas.  According to Acts 17:18, Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to engage the apostle Paul.  Trying to be relevant, Paul references an idol in Athens, quotes a famous poet and makes a reference to being an offspring of God.  When you don’t have much in common, its essential to find a starting place that will open the hearts and minds of a foreign audience to your point of view.

And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But Jesus replied, “It is written and forever remains written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God,’” Matthew 4:3-4.

Meanwhile, Jesus used a different strategy, especially when confronted by first century religious leaders.  In the passage above, a fallen angel, Lucifer, aka Satan tempts Jesus during his forty day fast in preparation of his earthly ministry.  Instead of using a rhetorical question on this occasion, Jesus simply says, “it is written.”  As a former archangel who knew God’s Word, Jesus corrects the deceivers request by referencing the Old Testament.  This didn’t discourage Satan, as he quotes the Bible, daring Jesus to use God’s supernatural powers for selfish reasons.  To finish this spiritual debate, Jesus uses the Bible to correct what Satan took out of context.

So then, if David calls Him (the Son, the Messiah) ‘Lord,’ how is He David’s son?” 46 No one was able to say a word to Him in answer, nor from that day on did anyone dare to question Him again, Matthew 22:45-46.

At the beginning of Matthew 22, Jesus endures an onslaught from Pharisees, Sadducees and religious leaders.  Like a fierce game of pin the tail on the donkey, each expert of the law tried to trick Jesus into making a mistake by de-emphasizing one of the ten commandments.  Beside using expressions like haven’t you read, Jesus answers each question with another question.  One by one, each religious leader left defeated, no match for the Son of God.  While no one possesses the wisdom of Jesus, if you find yourself losing a debate, reference the Bible by saying, “Haven’t you heard?” Then quote a passage of the Bible that relates to your discussion, “it is written.”

by Jay Mankus

 

The Searing of the Mind

If a live frog is placed into boiling water, the instinct to jump will immediately kick in, escaping this pot in a split second.  However, if you take a pond, gradually increase the temperature without stopping, this creature will die, scalded and scorched by extreme conditions.  Unfortunately, the same conclusion can be drawn to the human mind.  As the American culture has become pornified, filled with graphic images, mature content and shocking sights, the searing of the human mind has commenced.

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols, Acts 17:16.

If you have lived a sheltered life, guarded and protected by parents, you may be naïve to the numerous temptations that exist today.  Whenever you veer off into a foreign place, accidently take a wrong turn or wander into unknown territory, the presence of darkness can be overwhelming.  During a first century trip through the streets of Athens, the apostle Paul was troubled.  Depending upon what Bible commentary you rely on for research, Paul likely witnessed nudity, prostitution and sexual practices in the name of religion.  With each step, Paul’s mind was bombarded by unwholesome symbols, breaking his heart and distressing his soul.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23

During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reveals a key relationship between eyes and the mind.  Based upon the analogy above, eyes are the light source for human beings with minds serving as a screening mechanism.  When minds fail to filter out the presence of darkness, corruption occurs.  If unhealthy thoughts are allowed to go unchecked without any urgent action, pornographic images are collected, processed and stored.  Like a sponge cleaning up split water on a counter, minds absorb countless sights that you are exposed to daily.  Thus, without the discipline of putting on the armor of God, Ephesians 6:12-20, to fight against lust, innocent minds can be scarred for life.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, Romans 12:2.

In an article first published in 2011, the Christian Research Journal wrote about the Effects of Porn on the Male Brain.  This piece attempts to illustrate how pornography impacts hormonal, neurochemical and neurological development as sexual images become attached to souls.  One of my favorite points made by the author is that viewing pornography hijacks the normal functioning of the brain and it’s maladaptive patterns.  Perhaps, this man explain the call to action to renew your mind in the passage above.  Pornography is one of those taboo topics most churches side step, afraid to confront.  Yet, as this world continues to push the envelope further and further, it’s time to educate the masses to the searing of the human mind.  May the Bible guide, instruct and prepare you with the necessary resources to overcome the temptations people face in life.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Value of a Statue

Ancient Greece memorialized their heroes by erecting statues of gods and goddesses throughout cities like Athens.  When visitors passed through the streets, these monuments served as a reminder of their importance within the Greek culture.  During a first century mission trip to this region, the apostle Paul took some time to explore before Silas and Timothy arrived.  While waiting for his friends, Paul became overwhelmed by the images he observed.  Despite being offended, Paul desperately sought to engage the citizens of Greece, searching for something, anything they shared in common.

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols, Acts 17:16.

Although Paul does not give an actual number of statues that he witnessed, it appears to be in the hundreds.  As a former Pharisee, the zealot within him immediately thinks of these statues as idols, breaking the second commandment within the Torah, You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them,” Exodus 20:4.  However, the teaching of Jesus moved Paul to put a positive spin on what he saw, calling a crowd of Greeks religious.  This compliment opens the door to allow Paul to introduce philosophers to the unknown God based upon an altar erected by a former citizen.

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you,” Acts 17:22-23.

Sure, every culture possesses something that is offensive.  Whether this is a document, religious background or statue, history is meant to educate individuals, not divide citizens.  The United States of America was founded on the principle of free speech earning the nickname back in the 1970’s as the great American melting pot.  The first amendment of the Bill of Rights declares Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.  This is what makes America great.  However, if the citizens of this country allow government officials to destroy or remove historic statues of the past, there were will nothing to warn us from making the same mistakes.  May the events of Charlottesville in August of 2017 help people see the real value of a statue.

by Jay Mankus

Amusing Myself to Death

The definition of entertainment refers to providing and or receiving amusement or enjoyment.  Early cultures built theaters, often used to host plays to provide comic relief from the troubles in life.  In recent years, sports allows individuals to release their stress for a couple of hours each weekend.  However, if you get too comfortable or close to the finer things in life, you may be in danger of amusing yourself to death.

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols, Acts 17:16.

After a long week of work, I tend to find myself on a recliner soaking in something on television.  While I do spent time outside playing golf, at my current age, I prefer to be entertained.  Perhaps this explains why I have a hard time turning the channel when movies like A Few Good Men, Bourne Identity or Shawshank Redemption come on.  Its strange how reruns can attract someone’s attention, wasting valuable time that could be spent fulfilling your dreams.

So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there, Acts 17:17.

One of the best resources for escaping the grips of amusement is Summit Ministries.  During my decade of teaching, Dr. Jeff Myers and John Stonestreet were at the forefront of preparing students for college.  One of their common messages is that life imitates art.   The best way to address this is by engaging today’s culture through apologetics.  Just as the apostle Paul persuaded the people of Athens, this world needs a leader to snap people out of their spiritual slumber.  May the Lord awaken couch potatoes with the saving grace of God.

by Jay Mankus

 

Does it Really Matter Who the Greatest of All Time Is?

Debates are nothing new except perhaps the venue in which they take place.  Philosophers gathered in Athens to discuss and exchange their worldviews.  Jews went to the synagogues to hear rabbis share their interpretations of the Torah.  Today, opinions are posted, tweeted and vocalized on talk radio, with sports fans often adding their own two cents on who is the greatest of all time.

But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest, Mark 9:34.

This temptation is not limited to sports as even followers of Jesus wanted to know who was the best disciple.  I can imagine Peter saying, “I walked on water” before John chimes in “well, I’m the beloved one.”  Back and forth, each of the twelve probably revelled in their moment of glory before another voice drowns out the one before.  Sensing their discussion was getting out of hand, Jesus intervenes by defining the perimeters for the greatest of all time.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all,” Mark 9:35.

In eternal terms, the individual with the largest mansion in heaven will be the one who is the greatest servant of all.  In my mind, Mother Teresa is one of the front runners, but history provides ample choices to be number one.  Nonetheless, modern Christians must adhere to these standards or risk the chance of being rejected by Christ.  Therefore, don’t waste your breath on arguing who is the GOAT.  Rather, commit yourself to taking on the nature of a servant, Philippians 2:6-7.

by Jay Mankus

 

Who Will Be Your Eternal Guide?

One of the most intriguing jobs to me is being a tour guide.  Whether you’re on a college campus, in a historical area or museum, you are an ambassador for this institution, pointing out key attractions like a walking encyclopedia.  The overall impression of visitors lies in your hands, based upon the knowledge you communicate and entertainment you provide, engaging your group.

Outside of vocations, life is filled with individuals who lead you in the right direction.  Coaches introduce important skills to help young people master a sport.  Mentors demonstrate character, integrity and wisdom, blazing a path for others to follow.  Meanwhile, teachers often mold future leaders, inspiring curious souls to chase after their dreams.

The Psalmist takes this one step further, suggesting one guide will be with you to the end, Psalm 48:14.  The apostle Paul encourages his audience to look toward an altar in Athens, dedicated to an unknown God, Acts 17:22-23.  Jesus discloses the identity of this eternal guide in John 16:7-13 as the Holy Spirit.  As Moses once said in his farewell address, the choice is yours, Deuteronomy 30:15.  Who will be your eternal guide through life?  May Jesus lead you to life everlasting, 1 Timothy 2:5.

by Jay Mankus

 

Escaping the Ghosts of Christmas Past

Scrooged Poster

Movies like Elf, Home Alone, A Wonderful Life and Miracle of 34th Street have become an annual Christmas tradition for many American families.  While some people have become dependent on these movies to get them into the Christmas spirit, there is another classic which reveals a painful truth.  While fiction, Billy Murray’s version of Scrooged illuminates the fact that everyone has skeletons, ghosts of Christmas past.

Prior to 2012, I spent the previous 10 years in a bubble as a Christian school teacher, insulated from most of the temptations of this world.  Although not perfect, cursing was minimal, most of my interactions with parents were civil and I shared similar values with my co-workers.  Like the apostle Paul on his visit to Athens in Acts 17:16, 2012 has opened my eyes to the idols in our culture.  These images bring me back to my life prior to knowing Jesus, attractive to things like Music Television, R-rated movies and anything sports related.  These skeletons can haunt you, brought up by Satan just as ghosts haunted Billy Murray in Scrooged.

When attacked by these old desires, you have to flee or else ruin will follow, James 4:7.  This escape is not complete until God cleanses your heart and mind, James 4:8.  As you wrestle with your past, things like bad habits, past addictions, ungodly beliefs and soul spirit hurts, read passages like Galatians 2:20 and Philippians 1:21 to keep you on track.  These biblical truths should refresh minds of your new identity in Christ.  I can’t guarantee victory 100 % of the time, but I do hold fast to the promise of Romans 8:38-39 to insure success in the end.  If you run with a Hebrews 12:1-3 attitude, you should be able to escape the ghosts of your past!

by Jay Mankus

 

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