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What Love Can Do for You

From a musical point of view, the Beatles were one of the most influential bands of all time. Despite being from England, the sound of the Beatles was embraced by Americans and idolized as their popularity grew. From a spiritual perspective, there isn’t much that John Lennon, Paul McCartney and I agree upon. However, there was one project released as a non-album single in July 1967 that I believe in. The title “All You Need is You” said all you need to say.

For I have derived great joy and comfort and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints [who are your fellow Christians] have been cheered and refreshed through you, [my] brother. Therefore, though I have abundant boldness in Christ to charge you to do what is fitting and required and your duty to do, Philemon 1:7-8.

One of the apostle Paul’s first century letters highlight what love can do for your life. Paul is reminded by comfort, encouragement and joy derived from the love of Jesus poured out upon him from fellow believers. When the hearts of a saint are full of the Holy Spirit, love bubbles over as a form of spiritual refreshment. Paul’s advice to one of the servants on his ministry team is to do what it fitting and required as a child of God.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith ([b]your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! 14 Let everything you do be done in love (true love to God and man as inspired by God’s love for us), 1 Corinthians 16:13-14.

Paul takes a different direction in a letter to the Church at Corinth. Love doesn’t come naturally. Rather, you need to be alert daily, regularly on your guard and stand firm in your faith. As Christians maintain their conviction and devotion for God, love can keep you going even when you don’t have the strength to carry on. According to Paul, love should be your motivation for everything you do, loving others as Christ loved the church.

by Jay Mankus

When You Let Someone Down

As a child, whenever my mom yelled my full name, I immediately knew that I did something wrong. When expressions like “what were you thinking” or “I’m so ashamed of you” followed, this was a clear indicator that I let someone down. Whenever people that you care about or love are disappointed by your actions, human consciences produce spirits of conviction and guilt. Seeing the grief that you cause others to feel is not a welcomed sight.

Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]. And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance, Ephesians 5:1-2.

In a letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul addresses individuals who have not lived up to biblical standards. The ideal goal is to become an imitator of God. This is accomplished by emulating the love and life of Jesus. As individuals become willing to offer their lives as a living sacrifice, the Holy Spirit can replace sinful tendencies. Yet, as the Psalmist reminded the apostle Paul, “there is no one righteous; not even one,” Romans 3:9-12.

But immorality (sexual vice) and all impurity [of lustful, rich, wasteful living] or greediness must not even be named among you, as is fitting and proper among saints (God’s consecrated people). Let there be no filthiness (obscenity, indecency) nor foolish and sinful (silly and corrupt) talk, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting or becoming; but instead voice your thankfulness [to God], Ephesians 5:3-4.

Subsequently, every day human beings continue to do the opposite of their initial intentions, Romans 7:15-16. You may be able to tame these sinful cravings temporarily through discipline, but when you let your guard down you will disappoint someone. Beside confession and acts of contrition, James 5:16, reconciliation takes time. Although you can’t go through life trying to please other people, you can develop a will to devote yourself to God.

by Jay Mankus

Experts in the Wrong Field

I changed my major 3 times in my first three years of college. My indecision forced me to spend five years for my under graduate degree instead of 4. Meanwhile, by the time my I completed my internship in golf course design and maintenance, I realized that I had become an expert in the wrong field. By the mid 1990’s most golf clubs wanted to hire former famous members of the PGA Tour rather than a no name golf course architect.

Did that which is good then prove fatal [bringing death] to me? Certainly not! It was sin, working death in me by using this good thing [as a weapon], in order that through the commandment sin might be shown up clearly to be sin, that the extreme malignity and immeasurable sinfulness of sin might plainly appear. 14 We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am a creature of the flesh [carnal, unspiritual], having been sold into slavery under [the control of] sin, Romans 7:13-14.

In one chapter of the Bible, the apostle Paul makes an ironic confession. This individual called by God to become a special messenger to spread the good news about Jesus reveals his own addiction to sin. Despite his missionary journeys and special connection with some of Jesus’ disciples, Paul was an expert in the wrong field (SIN). An entire chapter of his letter to the Church at Rome reveals Paul’s internal battle.

However, it is no longer I who do the deed, but the sin [principle] which is at home in me and has possession of me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot perform it. [I have the intention and urge to do what is right, but no power to carry it out.] 19 For I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, but the evil deeds that I do not desire to do are what I am [ever] doing, Romans 7:17-19.

Romans 7 depicts Paul as an average human being struggling to get by. Perhaps, conviction consumed Paul to finally let the cat out of the bag, that he didn’t have everything together. Instead of living a lie, Paul comes clean to open up about how sin was controlling his life. While not many people want to admit it, we are all experts in the field of sin, Romans 3:23. Although you may try to conceal this, don’t be afraid to come out of the closet as an expert in the wrong field so that other people who hear your confession may be encouraged to make a u-turn back to God.

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

Diakrisis

Pneumatikós is an adjective which is derived from pneúma, the Greek word for spirit. Pneumatikós refers to the spiritual realm,  the invisible sphere in which the Holy Spirit imparts faith. In the passage below, the apostle Paul choses the Greek word πίστις. As individuals begin to listen to and read the Bible, hearts, minds and souls are persuaded by conviction to believe in the risen son of God, Jesus.

But they have not all heeded the Gospel; for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed (had faith in) what he has heard from us? 17 So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself), Romans 10:16-17.

As individuals enter into a personal relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10, a variety of spiritual gifts are imparted. One of these gifts is Diakrisis, the spiritual gift of discernment. Whenever anyone begins to hear voices, logic questions if you are crazy or not? However, as I sought counsel from other spiritual leaders, I wasn’t sure what to do or how to proceed. Several years later, I attended a 2 day conference on discernment. During one workshop, I realized that writing was one of the best ways to utilize Diakrisis.

But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully. 16 [And see to it that] your conscience is entirely clear (unimpaired), so that, when you are falsely accused as evildoers, those who threaten you abusively and revile your right behavior in Christ may come to be ashamed [of slandering your good lives], 1 Peter 3:15-16.

A few days after attending this event, I spoke with a woman from my Bible Study. After picking her brain about her own blog, Express Yourself 4Him was conceived. Like anything in life, the initial years was a learning experience, trying to figure out the content, format and overall objective. Using what I learned as a high school Bible teacher, Diakrisis led me to turn my posts into a daily devotional. Although some topics that I chose may not relate to you, I feel called to share my faith through writing about what God is teaching me daily. This is Diakrisis in action.

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

Never Lag in Zeal and Earnest

Zeal demonstrates enthusiasm and great energy while in pursuit of a cause or objective. Meanwhile, earnest refers to intense conviction with sincere intentions. When you put these two terms together, Paul suggests that individuals should do whatever they can to use their God given spiritual gifts daily. During the first century, the goal was to fulfill the great commission, Acts 1:18. Spiritual gifts serve as the vessel, the role that you play in making Jesus’ words a reality.

Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith; Romans 12:6.

In the 2005 film Sky High, young apprentices attended a secret school with the hope of ascertaining their super power. Once revealed, students were divided into one of two groups, superhero or sidekick. The list of spiritual gifts mentioned by the apostle Paul in verses 6-8 play a similar role. Some Christians possess dynamic and supernatural gifts like a superhero. All other believers play minor roles, serving the Lord in less flashy manners.

Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord, Romans 12:11.

The passage above indicates the desired energy level expected by God. Paul recognized the fact that waking up day after day can took an emotional, mental or physical toll on your body. Instead of lagging in zeal or earnest, Christians should be aglow while fanning into flame their spiritual gifts. When your spiritual passion begins to fade, re-fuel by tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit. May this passage from the New Testament encourage you to never lag in zeal or earnest as you serve the Lord daily.

by Jay Mankus

A Foretaste of the Blissful Things to Come

In the passage below, the apostle Paul points out that the Holy Spirit isn’t limited to Christians and Jews. Rather, God’s Spirit now extends to Gentiles who believe by entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The term first fruits likely refers to the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit poured out on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:1-4. Meanwhile, the foretaste of things to come is symbolic of the grace of God communicated to all in conversion.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption (our manifestation as God’s sons), Romans 8:23.

One of my former pastors explained grace as God’s riches at Christ’s expense. However, as Paul explains in the passage below, grace is invisible. Thus, as individuals begin to adjust their practices following their conversion from worldly pleasures toward eternal treasures, this transition is rarely smooth. Initial confessions of sin are refreshing, like receiving a shower of grace from heaven. Yet, when you begin to commit the same sinful act day after day, grace is cheapened and hope can be lost.

For in [this] hope we were saved. But hope [the object of] which is seen is not hope. For how can one hope for what he already sees? – Romans 8:24

In a letter to the church of Corinth, Paul pours out his heart during a moment of weakness, 2 Corinthians 12:7-12. Like anyone who is experiencing a spiritual free fall, the conviction of the Holy Spirit is overwhelming. Perhaps, Paul’s plea to God is merely asking the Lord, “why do I have to go through this?” Nonetheless, each Christian goes through a process known as sanctifying grace. This form of grace makes a soul acceptable and justified before God. Despite whatever hardships that you endure, may you recognize the foretaste of grace that will be completed before you meet your creator in heaven.

by Jay Mankus

The Finality of Hell

Prior to sharing the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Jesus is having a heated discussion with religious leaders about the Law. According to Luke, Jesus goes from a debate over wealth to what defines adultery. When you put two and two together, Jesus tells this story to convict the hearts of any Pharisee who was willing to listen. The purpose of this parable is meant to serve as a warning to the spiritually proud about the finality of hell.

And in Hades (the realm of the dead), being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried out and said, Father Abraham, have pity and mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Child, remember that you in your lifetime fully received [what is due you in] comforts and delights, and Lazarus in like manner the discomforts and distresses; but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish, Luke 16:23-25.

Jesus clearly states that there will be no second chances following death. I guess the only exception would be those individuals who have testified about having a near death experience. The medical world refers to these miracles as the Lazarus Syndrome, pronounced dead only to come back to life. Jesus includes the request from the rich man while in hell to clarify that the Torah and Prophets already serve as a warning to steer souls toward heaven and away from hell.

And [the man] said, Then, father, I beseech you to send him to my father’s house—28 For I have five brothers—so that he may give [solemn] testimony and warn them, lest they too come into this place of torment. 29 But Abraham said, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear and listen to them. 30 But he answered, No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent (change their minds for the better and heartily amend their ways, with abhorrence of their past sins). 31 He said to him, If they do not hear and listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded and convinced and believe [even] if someone should rise from the dead, Luke 16:27-31.

To the uncertain, wanting to make sure that they are on the right path, Jesus leaves behind another clue in Matthew 7:12-14. This is a good way to assess your motives. Do I go with the flow or am I more concerned with pleasing God? Am I seeking temporary pleasures or storing up eternal treasures? Are you bearing spiritual fruit or indulging your sinful nature? These are just a few questions that you must consider. Since there are no second chances after death, may this blog inspire you to choose Christ over self.

by Jay Mankus

Songs that Save Souls

While singing a Christmas carol in church yesterday, a stanza from O Little Town of Bethlehem struck a cord with my soul. After examining the lyrics, I discovered two different versions. Unless you sing the traditional version, the sixth stanza is skipped completely. As the words “Where meek souls will receive Him,” flashed on the overhead screen, my heart was moved.

Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart believe (adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Christ) and so is justified (declared righteous, acceptable to God), and with the mouth he confesses (declares openly and speaks out freely his faith) and confirms [his] salvation, Romans 10:9-10.

Immediately, a rhema, an utterance from God overwhelmed me. Humble and meek hearts are crucial to receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, Romans 10:9-11. If hearts are broken, callous, distracted or worn down, the miracle of Christmas is ignore, lost or missed completely. One of the ways God has changed and transformed my own heart is through Christian music which has touched my soul.

Of David. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! – Psalm 103:1

As I look back on the past three decades, there are some songs that became like a refuge, soothing my soul each time I listened to the lyrics. The first song is When God Ran by Benny Hester. After Hester got divorced, most of his music was removed from Christian bookstores, but this classic song moves me each time I hear it. In college, Feel the Nails by Ray Boltz served as a source of conviction to draw me back to God each time I strayed away.

Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! – Psalm 103:2.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions growing up was attending a Christmas Eve service that ended at midnight. After my father was transferred to Cleveland, my parents started attending a local church where the priest looked just like pictures of Jesus. This Christmas Eve service began at 10:30, singing Christmas carols until 11pm. The final hour was a traditional mass that ended with Joy to the World. As you attend church this Christmas, may God refresh your memory of songs that save souls.

by Jay Mankus

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