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Surrounding Yourself with the Right Team

As a former high school coach, the dynamics of a team changes every four years. Whenever a strong core of leaders graduate, coaches often struggle finding the right people to fill this void. Meanwhile, it only takes one bad attitude to poison a locker room. Subsequently, coaches have to weed out any bad apples and the immature before you can surround yourself with the right team of individuals for the future.

And Moses said to Joshua, Choose us out men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand. 10 So Joshua did as Moses said and fought with Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the hilltop, Exodus 17:9-10.

When Moses reached a certain age, well beyond his youth, he realized that it was time to retire from the Israeli army. Subsequently, Moses selected his predecessor, Joshua, delegating the task of choosing a team to go into battle against the Amalekites. Based upon Moses’ words in the passage above, Joshua had less than 24 hours to surround himself with the right team.

Fight the good fight of the faith; lay hold of the eternal life to which you were summoned and [for which] you confessed the good confession [of faith] before many witnesses, 1 Timothy 6:12.

Fortunately, most of us are given a lifetime to surround ourselves with the right team of people. This team of individuals could be co-workers, neighbors, specific family members or people from a local church. According to the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:1-7, the ideal team consists of distinct traits that when gathered together form a body that functions as a well oiled machine. Whether you’re young or old, may the people you surround yourself form a solid community of faith.

by Jay Mankus

What’s Boiling Over Inside the Church

One of the things I learned from serving on a church board for 7 years is that Christians don’t lose the desire to be in control after entering into a personal relationship with Jesus. I remember being in a conference room until 2 in the morning on a school night as a few men tried to exercise a power grab. Not much has changed from the first century as human nature continues to raise its ugly head in the form of heated arguments and dissensions.

So when I arrive, I will call attention to what he is doing, his boiling over and casting malicious reflections upon us with insinuating language. And not satisfied with that, he refuses to receive and welcome the [missionary] brethren himself, and also interferes with and forbids those who would welcome them, and tries to expel (excommunicate) them from the church, 3 John 1:10.

If you read the Gospel of John and his epistles, love is a central theme. Yet, John has to break away from his normal tendencies to address what’s boiling over inside a first century church. Based upon 3 John, one man is behind this dissension, Diotrephes. Based upon John’s attempts to advise and counsel Diotrephes, he his taken control of this church and is using political pressure to remain in power, 3 John 1:10.

I appeal to you, brethren, to be on your guard concerning those who create dissensions and difficulties and cause divisions, in opposition to the doctrine (the teaching) which you have been taught. [I warn you to turn aside from them, to] avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites and base desires, and by ingratiating and flattering speech, they beguile the hearts of the unsuspecting and simpleminded [people], Romans 16:17-18.

Acts 2:42-47 serves as the blueprint for all first century churches. Based upon the words of Luke, poverty was eliminated as the wealthy freely gave to those in need. While this is the ideal scenario, it’s far from reality as impure motives spur on modern day leaders to turn churches into their own private club. Paul claims that the love of money is the root of all evil, 1 Timothy 6:10. What’s boiling over in today’s church is a pursuit for power leaving many sheep broken hearted and sometimes excommunicated by the body of Christ they tried to save from corruption.

by Jay Mankus

Getting Your Emotions Under Control

One of Israel’s former kings describes time in the context of seasons. Just as Christmas is associated with winter in the northern hemisphere, every month brings with it a series of emotions. In Ecclesiastes 3:4, King Solomon follows sorrow with laughter. Since nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, James 4:13-14, you have to be ready to keep your emotions under control at all times.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition ([b]definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God, Philippians 4:6.

In a letter to the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul touches on mental health. Apparently, members of this church with dealing with a growing amount of anxiety. Rather than try to handle this on your own, Paul encourages Christians to actively pray for the circumstances that are bringing you stress. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by emotions, be thankful for any little victory that you experience daily.

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that [c]tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall [d]garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:7.

When you create a list of things that challenge your mental health, include these petitions as a daily part of your prayer life. Building on the words of Luke 1:37, the apostle Paul suggests that God has the ability to give you the strength to endure any situation that you face, Philippians 4:13. If you search for the peace of Christ, this tranquil state will enable any believer to get and keep your emotions under control.

by Jay Mankus

Reaching a Point Where You Can Come and Go Freely

Anytime a child leaves home for college or a new job, a true sense of independence is realized. Unless you have a roommate, for the first time in life aspiring students don’t have anyone to tell them when to come or go. This freedom can be liberating with the whole world ready for you to explore. While the mature will be able to handle this, there are many college students and young adults who experience their own version of the prodigal son or daughter.

Jesus used this parable (illustration) with them, but they did not understand what He was talking about.So Jesus said again, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that I Myself am the Door [a]for the sheep, John 10:6-7.

While the passage above isn’t the parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus provides the Bible’s version of the Motel 6 slogan. Instead of saying, “we’ll leave the light on for you,” Jesus introduces his open door policy for his followers. Referring to Himself as the Door, Jesus is the way to heaven. Unfortunately, countless individuals look for an alternate route, trying to find a back or side entrance. This invitation isn’t forced, but Jesus encourages his sheep to come and go as they please.

All others who came [as such] before Me are thieves and robbers, but the [true] sheep did not listen to and obey them. I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture, John 10:8-9.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee in life. Jesus uses a hypothetical scenario of thieves and robbers who will disrupt your life. During these exchanges, you may have valuable possessions stolen from your car, house or place of work. This is what happens when sheep venture outside of God’s pen. Freewill allows any Christian to come and go as they wish. No one is forcing you to go to church, pray or read the Bible. Yet, if you want to experience the abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10, listen to and obey the Shepherd. Then you will reach a point where you can come and go about life freely.

by Jay Mankus

The Service and Intervention of Jesus

When most Americans hear the term service, entering the military after high school is a practical way to serve your country. In recent years, public schools have used MLK Day as a way to give back to their local community. If you attend a church or belong to a group, service projects are a popular way of serving the less fortunate and those in need after a major storm or natural disaster.

Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross! – Philippians 2:5-8

While service tends to be an isolated activity for a day, weekend or entire week, an intervention is an immediate act taken to improve a dire situation. The apostle Paul does a great job of explaining mankind’s problem in Romans 5:8. Like a virus that doesn’t go away, sin slowly decays human beings via addictions, bad habits, and poor choices. Despite being undeserving, Jesus spent 3 years on earth serving God so that this spiritual intervention could be completed.

And God purposed that through (by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross, Colossians 1:20.

The entire book of Colossians is dedicated to the service and intervention of Jesus. This restoration project began in Genesis 3:14-15. In desperate need of a second Adam, Romans 5:12-21 explains how this plan was fulfilled through Jesus. Serving as a perfect Lamb of God, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Jesus became a sin offering for all who believe. When Jesus became obedient to death on a cross, the service and intervention of Jesus was completed on Easter Sunday. This is why the gospel refers to the good news about Jesus Christ, a servant who intervened on our behalf.

by Jay Mankus

Moving Forward Spiritually

The context of “taking sides” below occurs in the middle of a parable. Jesus tells a story of an individual who seeks to enter a strong man’s house. However, unless you first bind the spiritual entities that protect this house (body), you won’t be able to enter. In other words, if you’re not totally with Jesus, you’re against Him. Subsequently, those who are not moving forward spiritually begin to scatter, no longer imitating the love and life of Jesus.

He who is not with Me [definitely on My side] is against Me, and he who does not [definitely] gather with Me and for My side scatters, Matthew 12:30.

This same concept applies to churches as well. During a visit to the Church at Laodicea, John wasn’t impressed. Sure, there were some good things happening, blessed with wealth. Yet, at some point in time members began to trust in their financial riches instead of God. Just like Pink Floyd’s 1979 hit song, members of the Church at Laodicea had become comfortably numb. When you stop growing spiritually, idleness results in back sliding.

I know your [record of] works and what you are doing; you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth! – Revelation 3:15-16

Forward motion is difficult to maintain when your faith is currently stalled. When individuals remove Bible Study, prayer or worship from their weekly spiritual diet, this situation only gets worse. When picking up the Bible, speaking to God or going to church becomes a chore, a spiritual spark is needed. Until revival ignites a dormant faith, most souls will remain in neutral. May this blog inspire you to jump start your faith with forward motion.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming the Curses that Exist on Earth

A few weeks ago I got together with an old friend from church. After catching up on what’s going on, our conversation turned toward a common theory. While sharing strange experiences from our former church, each of us came to the conclusion that this property was cursed. Although this may seem strange to many of you, this is consistent with the words of the Old Testament. Prior to being expelled from the Garden of Eden, God places a curse upon men and women, one that includes cursing the ground.

And to Adam He said, Because you have listened and given heed to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it, the ground is under a curse because of you; in sorrow and toil shall you eat [of the fruits] of it all the days of your life. 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you shall return, Genesis 3:17-19.

As I drive to work each day, I pass by a portion of the debris path from a recent tornado. Spawned by the remnants of tropical storm Isaias, this particular tornado stayed on the ground for over 29 miles. My view of this destruction is a once thriving corn field. While portions of this property remain untouched, a large section of the corn is completely flattened. Four power lines across the street were also leveled before being repaired. Perhaps, this too is a casualty of the curse mentioned in the Bible.

But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief [of the celestial] princes, came to help me, for I remained there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I have come to make you understand what is to befall your people in the latter days, for the vision is for [many] days yet to come, Daniel 10:13-14.

Beside the curses placed upon Adam and Eve, there are also powers of darkness that control specific cities, countries, and regions. In the passage above, Daniel refers to a demonic presence called the prince of Persia. While studying a book on spiritual mapping in America, similar places exist in the United States today. While you probably won’t hear about this, the apostle Paul is clear about spiritual forces of evil, Ephesians 6:12. The best way to overcome curses is by arming yourself with the armor of God daily, 1 Thessalonians 5:8.

by Jay Mankus

What Do I Need to Drop?

Since churches have been closed due to the Coronavirus back in March, I’ve picked up a couple of bad habits. After spending an entire decade at one church and school, the past 10 years have been difficult. Although my current work schedule hasn’t helped, being a spiritual nomad without a church to call home has left me feeling empty. As churches in our area slowly reopen, it’s time for me to drop the excuses for not getting involved.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? – Matthew 5:43-46

One of my greatest offenses is a carefree faith that isn’t that much different than anyone else. Instead of being set apart like the Salt of the Earth and Light of the World, I’m no holier than a pagan. This spiritual slide has led me to harbor bitterness, hold on to grudges and forget to forgive others as Christ forgave me. Rather than carry these burdens with me another day, it’s time to drop this bad habit at the foot of the cross.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one. 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins, Matthew 6:12-15.

The apostle provides a blue print in Colossians 3 for those who feel compelled and convicted to drop bad habits. this process begins with a change of heart and mind, Colossians 3:1-4. The second step isn’t as easy, regaining control of a flesh that have gone wild, Colossians 3:5-9. If this doesn’t do the trick, there is always the warning above, forgiveness is conditional based upon how you forgive others. Before your soul becomes too far gone, drop whatever is preventing you from being reconciled with God and others.

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

No Substitute Will Do

As a former teacher, I despised planning for my days off, putting together lesson plans for a substitute.  While this replacement for a class, day or week tries their best to follow the material provided, students will do all they can to battle for a movie day or study hall.  When I returned back to the classroom, I was usually disappointed by the lack of progress that was made.  Although there are several excellent full time subs, some individuals are impossible to replace.

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed, Acts 14:23.

As an adult, I struggle to focus when I attend a church service and the senior pastor is off or out of town.  Maybe once or twice the guest speaker is just as good, but usually there is a big drop off.  When worship leaders are absent or the A team is away playing for another service, there is usually a noticeable difference.  Whenever superior talent is replaced by an alternate or reserve, these fill ins are put into a no win situation.  If surprisingly good, regulars might feel threatened.  When someone fails miserably, you will likely lose this volunteer, to avoid future embarrassment.

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone, Hebrews 2:9.

These illustrations prove that no substitute will do for certain scenarios.  For example, attending church from an off campus sight or virtually on an electronic device is a growing trend.  When pastors or worship teams aren’t available, newly planted churches can participate by watching from a large screen.  If you are not careful, it’s easy to withdraw, staying home to listen to sermons and worship.  I must confess that I have fallen prey to this trap.  I rationalize my actions by listening to two to three sermons each Sunday.  Yet, when it comes to being part of a local congregation, no substitute will do.  God designed the body of Christ around imitate relationships.  Thus. getting involved means going to church, fellowshipping with others and making yourself vulnerable to God.

by Jay Mankus

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