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Active and Moving

To survive in the spiritual realm, you have to be alert, discerning, and proactive. Based upon the words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-12, the Devil is always scheming something to take down Christians daily. One of Jesus’ disciples reveals this plot in 1 Peter 5:8. As someone who wasn’t prepared for Jesus’ arrest, Peter learned the hard way after publicly denying Jesus three times. Staying spiritually active and moving prevents you from becoming separated from God’s flock, other believers.

The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters, Genesis 1:2.

During an interaction at work last month, one of my managers noticed that I was always diligent and working hard when he sees me. My quick response naturally flowed out of me, “I only have one speed.” Either I’m still a hyperactive child in my fifties or I possess an old school mentality: “work is work and play comes after hours.” Like the Spirit of God hovering and moving over the earth prior to creation, I get antsy when I remain stagnant. Active and moving is more of my natural pace in life.

For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the [g]breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart, Hebrews 4:12.

According to one biblical author, the Holy Spirit isn’t the only thing moving and active. While the Bible has been translated into 724 languages as of 2022, the words inside this book are supernatural. The passage above highlights how a verse or an entire passage can emotionally move you. Whether it’s your conscience, heart or soul, conviction has a way of moving through our bodies. The next time you read the Bible, may you experience an active and moving God who resides in your heart via Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

The Essence of Truth

In this modern age of relativism, the essence of truth is quickly vanishing. Relativism is the belief that that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute. Whenever opinions are elevated to truth status by a culture, usually through the power of social media, the truth of any matter is left up to members of the elite in America.

Jesus answered, My kingdom (kingship, royal power) belongs not to this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My followers would have been fighting to keep Me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, My kingdom is not from here (this world); [it has no such origin or source]. 37 Pilate said to Him, Then You are a King? Jesus answered, You say it! [You speak correctly!] For I am a King. [Certainly I am a King!] This is why I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the Truth. Everyone who is of the Truth [who is a friend of the Truth, who belongs to the Truth] hears and listens to My voice. 38 Pilate said to Him, What is Truth? On saying this he went out to the Jews again and told them, I find no fault in Him, John 18:36-38.

In some cases, social media giants Google, Facebook and Twitter have become a modern-day Wizard of Oz. Don’t look behind the curtail to see what’s really going on as the Wizard is pulling all the levers to make people see the reality of the United States that they want you to imagine. Meanwhile, anyone who pushes back or questions the great Wizard, is cancelled or mischaracterized as a truth denier.

Then I fell prostrate at his feet to worship (to pay divine honors) to him, but he [restrained me] and said, Refrain! [You must not do that!] I am [only] another servant with you and your brethren who have [accepted and hold] the testimony borne by Jesus. Worship God! For the substance (essence) of the truth revealed by Jesus is the spirit of all prophecy [the vital breath, the inspiration of all inspired preaching and interpretation of the divine will and purpose, including both mine and yours], Revelation 19:10.

Nearly 2000 years ago, a governor addresses a spiritual leader with a burning question: what is truth? When Jewish leaders wanted to falsely accuse Jesus of a crime He didn’t commit. Pontus Pilate meets with Jesus behind closed doors. The topic of discussion: the essence of truth. Despite warnings from Pilate’s wife, Pilate did what must politicians do, find a loophole and exploit it. If what you hear online causes your conscience to cringe, turn to the Bible so that as you read, you will discover the essence of truth.

by Jay Mankus

Stop Messing Around

While in high school, I usually played one of two roles. I was either messing around, acting like a childish immature kid who wanted to take a break from being serious. Or I was the adult in the room later on in school, overwhelmed by my conscience asking my friends, “are you sure we should be doing this?” In the case of Abraham, God placed him into a scenario where he was forced to stop messing around in life.

After these events, God tested and proved Abraham and said to him, Abraham! And he said, Here I am. [God] said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I will tell you, Genesis 22:1-2.

When called by God to sacrifice the promised son that Abraham and his elderly wife waited decades to be fulfilled, he leaves before daybreak. Abraham doesn’t consult his wife about this matter as this isn’t a suggestion. After a sleepless night, Abraham mentally prepares himself for the journey that awaits. I can only imagine the thoughts going through Abe’s mind as he set out to sacrifice his beloved son.

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and his son Isaac; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and then began the trip to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance, Genesis 22:3-4.

Looking back on my own life, I spent four years of college straddling the fence with one foot indulging my sinful nature and the other wanting to please God. There was one song that struck a nerve in my heart of my lukewarm spirit, Revelation 3:16. Ray Boltz in Feel the Nails uses the expression “stop playing games” in this chorus. While on a retreat in Friendship, Maryland, this song changed my life and brought me to a place like Abraham to stop messing around by taking my faith in Jesus serious.

by Jay Mankus

The Origin of Turn or Burn

Hell, fire and brimstone sermons were a common occurrence within churches in Europe and the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of these messages are in connection with the first and second great awakenings. When I grew up in the 1970’s, the church didn’t know how to handle the drugs, sex and rock and roll of the 1960’s. Subsequently, pastors began to respond to this moral decay in 1975 through their own verson of hell, fire and brimstone messages. However, one of the regular expressions I remember as a child was “turn or burn.”

For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward]. 27 [There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God], Hebrews 10:26-27.

This is the origin of turn or burn, scaring the hell out of anyone with a conscience. From my earliest recollections as a child, preachers would give altar calls nearly every week, with frightful teenagers running up front Sunday after Sunday. Fortunately for me, our Catholic Church started holding a special mass for young children in the basement which sheltered me Turn or Burn sermons. When pulpits forget how to share the gospel in a graceful and loving manner, people begin to leave the church which is what started happened in the United States at this time.

He too shall [have to] drink of the wine of God’s indignation and wrath, poured undiluted into the cup of His anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no respite (no pause, no intermission, no rest, no peace) day or night—these who pay homage to the beast and to his image and whoever receives the stamp of his name upon him, Revelation 14:10-11.

Last week, I was reminded of this Turn or Burn history within the church after reading the above passage. The context of this verse occurs in the end of days when the Anti-Christ is ushered into power and persuades the world to turn their worship away from God and toward him. Anyone who receives the stamp of the beast (666) on their hand or forehead will be banished to hell for eternity. This is a topic that most churches skip today to keep members of their congregation happy. Yet may today’s blog urge you to repent and make a U-turn back to God so your future fate is secure.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 11: Dig

Every once in a while, you will find an artist who sounds identical to another. Growing up in high school, I became a fan of REM. Although I never bought one of their albums, I liked most of their songs. Today’s song comes from the group Adam Again who in my opinion is the REM of Christian music. One of Adam Again’s famous songs is River on Fire based upon the real-life fire on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland.

For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings will I rejoice, Psalm 63:7.

The lyrics of Dig are symbolic of subtle compromises that people make in life. This often begins with a lazy lie until it escalates as you dig a hole of deception that you often fall into. Unfortunately, stubborn people tend to keep digging this hole until bad choices end up becoming a lifestyle. May the lyrics of Dig awaken your conscience so that any bad habits may be conquered by the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Aroused by Faith

Aroused is not one of those words associated with Christianity. Yet, there are two distinct chapters in the Bible that offer contrasting differences. The first occurs in 1 Corinthians 10 where the apostle Paul reflects upon past mistakes made by former Jewish leaders. These individuals were aroused by sin that resulted in disobedience and rebellion. Meanwhile, Hebrews 11 is dedicated to the Christian Hall of Fame. The common denominator of these special candidates was being aroused by and prompted by faith to act.

[Aroused] by faith Moses, when he had grown to maturity and[f]become great, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Hebrews 11:24.

To understand the passage above, a brief history lesson is necessary. Exodus 2:1-25 details how Moses’ parents hid their child in the Nile where Pharaoh’s daughter found him. This sets the stage for Moses’ life to be saved and raised in the house of Egypt’s king. Rather than endure a life of poverty, Moses experienced the riches of Egypt, likely spoiled beyond belief by Pharaoh’s daughter. However, as Moses grew up and matured, wealth became empty to him. This is when Moses’ faith was aroused.

For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not [b]adjusted and [c]adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to [d]a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

After a list of past failures, the apostle Paul concludes 1 Corinthians 10 ends with a warning in verse 12 and advice to overcome temptation in verse 13. Verse 12 serves as a cautious reminder against becoming overconfident. Perhaps Paul is speaking of personal experience, a time in his life when pride led to failure. Conscious of this possibility, Paul lays out a spiritual blueprint of how to overcome temptation. Therefore, the next time you’re aroused by sin, look for the way out so that faith prevails.

by Jay Mankus

When Christian’s Don’t Know How to Act

Becoming a Christian is like new parents coming home from the hospital with their first child. Adults may take Lamaze classes in preparation, but once there are no doctors around to tell you what to do, you’re on your own. While most churches provide literature for new believers or offer classes to help prepare newbies for a new life in Christ, there are still more questions than answers. Subsequently, countless Christians often don’t know how to act after trusting in Jesus to be their Lord and Savior.

As for the man who is a weak believer, welcome him [into your fellowship], but not to criticize his opinions or pass judgment on his scruples or perplex him with discussions. One [man’s faith permits him to] believe he may eat anything, while a weaker one [limits his] eating to vegetables. Let not him who eats look down on or despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains criticize and pass judgment on him who eats; for God has accepted and welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on and censure another’s household servant? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he shall stand and be upheld, for the Master (the Lord) is mighty to support him and make him stand, Romans 14:1-4.

While visiting the Church at Rome, the apostle Paul came into contact with new, immature and weak Christians. The passage above provides advice for coping and dealing with Christians who don’t exactly know how to act yet. As a former high school coach, Paul’s words remind me that not every individual responds well to criticism. Some people need encouragement, others need a pat on the back and the lackadaisical could use a stern talking to promote spiritual growth.

Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears [into thin air]. 15 You ought instead to say, If the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this or that [thing]. 16 But as it is, you boast [falsely] in your presumption and your self-conceit. All such boasting is wrong. 17 So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin, James 4:14-17.

The earthly brother of Jesus was introduced to the concept of sins of omission. Perhaps, the Pharisees became so concerned about religious practices such as resting on the Sabbath that they failed to see opportunities to help and serve others. When his older brother was crucified on a cross at age 33, James realized that life is too short to not to know how to act. Therefore, if your conscience or the Holy Spirit compels you to act and you do not, you’re just as guilty as a sinner. Therefore, seize each day and learn to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, so you begin to learn how to act as a Christian daily.

by Jay Mankus

Just Don’t Read…Get the Know the Shepherd

The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters. He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake, Psalm 23:1-3.

Sheep are mentioned more than 500 in the Bible, more than any other animal.  Sheep were important to nomads and the agricultural life of Hebrews in the Old Testament.  Whether you’re talking about the 23rd Psalm or the Parable of the Lost Sheep, this animal is used to symbolize the relationship between God and his followers.  As you read the beginning of Luke 15, Jesus is like a shepherd who is willing to leave behind the faithful sheep to find the one who has wandered off.

Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over, Psalm 23:4-5.

Unfortunately, stubborn individuals are resistant to change. While people may experience moments of guilt from within their conscience to stop what they are doing, the disobedient tend to press on, full steam ahead. Regardless of how pure in heart that you may be, everyone dabbles in rebellion, especially when you come across a rule that doesn’t make any sense. However, until the Biblical Shepherd steers you in the right direction, you’ll do lots of wandering until you find your way home.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). 11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep, John 10:10-11.

The disciple whom Jesus loved compared his spiritual leader to a good shepherd. Instead referring to an actual shepherd tending after his sheep, Jesus served as a father figure to shelter human beings from the Devil. While the attacks of this spiritual enemy have continued long after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, just don’t read the Bible, get to know the Good Shepherd, aka God’s one and only son Jesus Christ. As you open the Bible, the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see what it takes to live the abundant life that Jesus promised in the passage above.

by Jay Mankus

When Christian’s Don’t Like What God Has to Say

American author Eleanor H. Porter wrote the novel Pollyanna in 1913. Actress Hayley Mills brought this character to life in the 1960 film entitled Pollyanna. Despite the hardship of being a missionary’s daughter all her life, Pollyanna refused to be negative. Pollyanna is symbolic of an excessively cheerful and optimistic individual who sees life with their glass half full. While no one likes to receive criticism, imperfect human beings will make mistakes. Whether through conviction from your conscience, guilt that consumes your soul while reading the Bible or a rebuke from a church leader, there will be times when you won’t like what God has to say about your current spiritual condition.

[But the Lord rebukes Jeremiah’s impatience, saying] If you have raced with men on foot and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? And if [you take to flight] in a land of peace where you feel secure, then what will you do [when you tread the tangled maze of jungle haunted by lions] in the swelling and flooding of the Jordan? For even your brethren and the house of your father—even they have dealt treacherously with you; yes, even they are [like a pack of hounds] in full cry after you. Believe them not, though they speak fair words and promise good things to you, Jeremiah 12:5-6.

An Old Testament prophet reveals an unpleasant experience in the passage above. If you have ever watched a Few Good Men starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, these words from God remind me of the court scene where Lieutenant Kaffee cross examines Colonel Jessup. Just as the Colonel didn’t believe the Lieutenant could handle the truth, stubborn Christians have a hard time accepting the Lord’s rebuke. Instead of being open to criticism and teachable to alter their current path, many choose to turn a deaf ear, refusing to change course.

You have not yet struggled and fought agonizingly against sin, nor have you yet resisted and withstood to the point of pouring out your [own] blood. And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes. You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline? – Hebrews 12:4-7

The author of Hebrews unveils the purpose for spiritual discipline. Although you may not want to hear this, discipline is a sign of God’s love. The Lord isn’t like a human coach who would rather be loved than offend his players. Rather, God uses tough love to correct anyone who strays off course. If you truly want to reach your full potential, you need to surround yourself with others who are more advanced and skilled to reveal what you are lacking. While this may be painful and uncomfortable, if you want to grow, you must be willing to be pruned, John 15:1-7. The next time you don’t like what God has to say, submit and swallow your pride so that you’ll come out of this stronger than ever before.

by Jay Mankus

Rushing to Find a Replacement

Frank Costello was the inspiration behind Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone’s character in the 1972 classic film the Godfather. On Thursday, February 17th, America lost the Godfather of talk radio. Rush Limbaugh’s talent on loan from God has been returned and now conservatives are rushing to find a replacement for his voice. Rush Limbaugh has been a beacon of truth since 1988 when his nationally syndicated midday radio show began. At the height of his popularity, 40 million people tuned into Rush’s radio program. Former President Donald Trump recently said, “To these people who listened to him every day, it was like a religious experience to a lot of people,”

This is he who was mentioned by the prophet Isaiah when he said, The voice of one crying in the wilderness (shouting in the desert), Prepare the road for the Lord, make His highways straight (level, direct). This same John’s garments were made of camel’s hair, and he wore a leather girdle about his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the country round about the Jordan went out to him; And they were baptized in the Jordan by him, confessing their sins, Matthew 3:3-6.

In the early first century, many Jews believed that John the Baptist was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. Long before the days of radio, John’s popularity spread through word of mouth. Despite John’s native appearance and attire, he was a man of great substance. As John preached on the banks of the Jordan River, hearts were convicted to change their current direction in life. Overwhelmed by guilt, exposed from their conscience, individuals confessed their sins and were baptized. Some of John’s followers may have viewed him as their spiritual godfather.

I indeed baptize you in (with) water because of repentance [that is, because of your changing your minds for the better, heartily amending your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins]. But He Who is coming after me is mightier than I, Whose sandals I am not worthy or fit to take off or carry; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fan (shovel, fork) is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear out and clean His threshing floor and gather and store His wheat in His barn, but the chaff He will burn up with fire that cannot be put out, Matthew 3:11-12.

Despite the praise heaped upon him, John remained humble, recognizing the position God wanted him to play. While John baptized believers with water, Jesus introduced first century followers to the Holy Spirit. When John was arrested, some of his followers were hesitant to turn their attention to Jesus. Yet, as word of Jesus’ ministry began to spread, previous concerns faded away. Anytime you lose a great leader, it’s hard to find a replacement, a substitute to fill this void. Yet, if you believe in the promises of the Old Testament, Micah 2:12, God is always working behind the scenes to raise up a remnant of future leaders.

by Jay Mankus

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