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Don’t Extinguish Eternal Fire

During a visit to a prison in 1868, poet William J. Reynolds was inspired to write a hymn. Using the image of a camp fire, Reynolds opening stanza starts with the following words. “It only takes a spark to keep a fire going. And soon all those around will warm up to it’s glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love; once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone; you want to pass it on.” When the Holy Spirit fills newly devoted followers of Christ, faith becomes contagious like the classic song Pass It On.

And we earnestly beseech you, brethren, admonish (warn and seriously advise) those who are out of line [the loafers, the disorderly, and the unruly]; encourage the timid and fainthearted, help and give your support to the weak souls, [and] be very patient with everybody [always keeping your temper]. 15 See that none of you repays another with evil for evil, but always aim to show kindness and seek to do good to one another and to everybody, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15.

Unfortunately, rumors of apathy and complacency began to plague the Church at Thessalonica. Instead of passing on God’s love, first century Christians started pouring cold water on the spiritually optimistic. As a former Roman Catholic who was forced to attend mass every Sunday, I know what’s like not to want to be in church. While in college, I first encountered charismatic Christians, eager and passionate about worshiping God every week. Looking back, I was lukewarm, prematurely judging these on fire believers.

Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); 17 Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. 19 Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19.

Based upon the passage above, apparently some Thessalonians were suppressing the joy of other first century Christians. Perhaps, envy played a part in this behavior. When someone has a passion that is missing from your own life, defense mechanisms often trigger crude and unusual reactions. If you finding yourself lashing due to jealousy, you should consider Paul’s advice. Faith shouldn’t be regulated by your emotions. Rather, worship should consume your soul daily, thirsty for God’s Word which serves as fuel for eternal fire.

by Jay Mankus

Fearless Before Evil

The Bible refers to evil as any mindset that which is opposed to God and His purposes. While the word evil can refer to anything that causes harm, everything that contradicts the holy nature of God is considered evil in God’s eyes. With or without the moral dimension, evil has a way of infiltrating lives in subtle ways. When evil attaches itself to human lives, individuals will begin to act out in anger, often through emotional outbursts. Unfortunately, when evil behavior is confronted, defense mechanisms activate, forming a wall that can divide and further separate rocky relationships.

Elijah replied, I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, by forsaking the commandments of the Lord and by following the Baals. 19 Therefore send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of [the goddess] Asherah, who eat at [Queen] Jezebel’s table. 20 So Ahab sent to all the Israelites and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, How long will you halt and limp between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him! But if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word, 1 Kings 18:18-21.

As Christians mature in their faith, the goal is to recognize evil with a readiness to stand up to it as a moments notice. One of the greatest examples of this in the Bible occurs when Elijah persuades 950 secular prophets into a spiritual duel. Instead of using weapons, Elijah comes up with a proposal to call fire down from heaven. The winner of this challenge will be the first to have their God bring fire down from. Although no coin flip was used to determine the order, Elijah allows followers of Asherah and Baal to go first. If you read the entire passage, 1 Kings 18:18-29, Elijah is so confident that he begins taunting these unsuccessful prophets.

At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened. 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with knives and lances until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 Midday passed, and they played the part of prophets until the time for offering the evening sacrifice, but there was no voice, no answer, no one who paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, Come near to me. And all the people came near him. And he repaired the [old] altar of the Lord that had been broken down [by Jezebel], 1 Kings 18:27-30.

When these secular prophets finally gave up, Elijah goes to extremes to prove that the God of Abraham is Lord. Instead of appeasing these prophets, Elijah repaired an altar previously smashed by his opponents and prepared an offering to God. To prove a point, Elijah fills the area around his sacrifice with water, knowing what His Lord was about to do. On this day upon Mount Carmel, Elijah stared evil in the face and won. According to eye witnesses of this miracle, God sent fire down from heaven, consumed Elijah’s sacrifice and licked up all of the water in the trench that was dug. As evil continues to ravage cities, communities and states, may Elijah’s testimony inspire readers to be fearless before evil today.

by Jay Mankus

Delusions

A delusion is an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted. Whether by error, fantasy or an illusion, delusions occur when individuals refuse to believe the facts. As others push back with reason, defense mechanisms kick in. The stubborn often deny reality, opting to participate in arguments and debates, seeking to win others over to their side.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is mere delusion [futile, fruitless], and you are still in your sins [under the control and penalty of sin]; 18 And further, those who have died in [spiritual fellowship and union with] Christ have perished (are lost)! – 1 Corinthians 15:17-18

When it comes to faith, believing and trusting in an invisible God in considered a delusion by many today. In the series Joan of Arcadia, Amber Tamblyn plays a high school sophomore who experiences a series of encounters with God. Afraid to tell any of her friends, Joan keeps this relationship secret. When Joan contracts a severe case of Lyme Disease at the end of Season 1, her doctors suggest that her unusual behavior were hallucinations. This crisis of faith makes Joan think God was a delusion.

If we who are [abiding] in Christ have hope only in this life and that is all, then we are of all people most miserable and to be pitied. 20 But the fact is that Christ (the Messiah) has been raised from the dead, and He became the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [in death]. 21 For since [it was] through a man that death [came into the world, it is] also through a Man that the resurrection of the dead [has come], 1 Corinthians 15:19-21.

When things go your way, it’s easy to believe. However, when your life begins to fall apart, trusting God in the dark becomes a challenge. In your moments of weakness, the father of lies, John 8:44, will plant doubt within your mind. If you allow these thoughts to linger, ungodly beliefs will conceive. When you don’t take your thoughts captive, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, the Devil can persuade some to believe God is merely a delusion. Don’t fall for this trap as Satan is afraid the same resurrection power that raised Jesus will also transform your life. Learn to trust God in the dark.

by Jay Mankus

Trapped

On the surface, I’m pretty good hiding how I feel.  Perhaps, a defense mechanism from my years as an athlete, I often go into survivor mode, pushing forward regardless of the pain.  This psychosis like state led me to complete a high school cross country race after spraining my ankle during the first mile.  Unfortunately, when I crossed the finish line, I collapsed ripping my ankle from its tendons, twisting the born ninety degrees in the wrong direction.  This is the first time in my life where I felt trapped, unsure of what my future held.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

The term trap refers to being corned, shut in, on the verge of being captured.  This imprisoned state is where many believers find themselves, stuck in spiritual quicksand, unable to break free.  Those who visit this dark place typically return from time to time, caught in a vicious cycle.  Sometimes a friend will come to your rescue, able to pull you back into a community of believers.  Other situations require a wrestling match, claiming the promises of God from the Bible in prayer.  Unfortunately, some people never escape, deceived by the Devil or doubt, succumbing to a downward spiral of depression.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 2 Peter 1:3.

Even Jesus’ own disciples felt trapped by the worries of this life.  Judas Iscariot committed suicide, overwhelmed by guilt that sealed his fate.  Peter who was a spiritual rock, publicly denied knowing Jesus three times, resulting in tears and wounded ego.  However, Jesus restored Peter following his resurrection in John 21:15-23.  At some point, the Holy Spirit revealed to Peter that God has given us everything we need in life to overcome being ensnared and trapped by sin.  Therefore, don’t lose hope like Judas and those who succumb negative voices inside their heads.  Rather, reach out to Jesus so that freedom will be experienced today.

by Jay Mankus

The Barbs of Jealousy

One of the most graceful creatures of the sea are rays.  Guiding effortless like an airplane in the sky, sting rays are harmless unless provoked or stepped on.  When threatened, rays use their tail as a defense mechanism.  Tails contain barbs, stingers on the top and venom glands on the bottom.  Its hard to believe the legendary Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin died on September 4th, 2006, falling victim to the barbs of jealousy.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice, James 3:16.

Human beings don’t need a tail to inflict pain.  Rather, the tongue serves as a cruel weapon, spitting out poisonous venom daily.  Similar to rays, most individuals are good and decent.  However, when an only child get’s replaced by a new addition to the family, their monopoly on mom and dad is broken.  Meanwhile, adults who are phased out of a relationship or don’t get the attention they deserve tend to erupt like an immature child.  In an attempt regain center stage, barbs of jealousy take the shape of harsh words.

But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up, Acts 17:13.

Jews of the first century didn’t take too kindly of no longer being the apple of God’s eye.  As soon as Gentiles began to come to faith, some took exception to this.  Thus, jealousy caused Jews to stir up opposition to Paul’s ministry, which extended grace to those outside of God’s chosen people.  This frenzy continues to today in denominations, fighting for a larger audience, more members and a greater offering.  Unfortunately, its time to expose this movement for what it is, barbs of jealousy trying to remain in power.  In view of this invisible force, trust in the Lord so that the barbs of jealousy don’t harm anyone you love.

by Jay Mankus

 

If These Walls Could Speak?

Building walls of protection is nothing new.  The Berlin Wall, Great Wall of China and Western Wall in Israel were established as defense mechanisms.  These structures served as a hiding place as well as a refuge, either to keep enemies out or prevent other civilians from corrupting the ideology shared by those who call this places home.

Beyond the vision of a human eye, another wall exists.  This one surrounds the heart, protecting individuals from becoming vulnerable, hurt or both.  The greater the pain from the past, the larger the barrier erected.  Like a facade, unveiling what lies behind this inclosure isn’t easy.  Layer by layer must be removed carefully or else souls will clam up, refusing to convey genuine concerns, emotions or thoughts.

According to a famous prophet, the heart is a mysterious organ, Jeremiah 17:9-10.  Regardless of how cautious someone is, when the heart speaks don’t be surprised by what you hear.  Deceitfulness has taken hearts captive, a condition that is beyond cure.  Therefore, if famous historic walls could speak, sin might be the topic of conversation.  In view of this grave condition, set your heart on things above, Colossians 3:1-3, so that hell will wear off as heaven takes center stage.

by Jay Mankus

Establishing a Foundation for Victory

You don’t have to be in high school to discern whether or not you belong.  Based upon your personality and the people you encounter, conversations and friendships can quickly turn into tug of wars, seeking control.  My own defense mechanism causes me to begin cautiously, often listening more than talking before opening up.  However, once I feel comfortable in a certain setting or group of individuals, my true identity shines through.

However, there are many things which wage war against your soul in this life, making victory elusive, 1 Peter 2:11.  Depending upon your motivation or degree or perseverance, many give up, throwing in the towel before they taste success.  When you add this factor to the excess baggage people carry from their past, reaching the summit of John 10:10 seems unrealistic.  Spirits of doubt, failure and pessimism imprint a loser mentality upon the souls of many.  Instead of claiming the promise of Philippians 4:13, a lack of faith prohibits these bystanders from obtaining joy.

So how can someone establish a foundation for victory?  What must one do to turn their fortune from failure to celebration?  A Calvinist will say you don’t have a prayer; you’re either chosen or not.  The Arminian will disagree, claiming everyone has a shot.  While God’s grace does play a major role in victory, Ephesians 2:8, there is more as acts of contrition and penitence demonstrate whether or not someone is on the right track, James 2:26.  From my own journey, below are essential ingredients which have put me into position to achieve victory.

1) Like Jesus, you need to find a quiet place, seeking solitude daily to get your heart and mind in the right place, Luke 4:42.

2) You need to find and or develop friendships which elevate your self-esteem and spiritual hunger, Acts 2:42-47.

3) Fill your idle time listening to uplifting music whether through Pandora, Radio Stations or You Tubes that will get you through each day, filling your mind with wholesome lyrics and thoughts, 1 Samuel 16:23.

4) Try to read a chapter of the Bible daily which will enhance your faith while transforming your mind, Romans 10:17.

5) Spend time each day in some form of recreation, whether running, working out and investing in a hobby which makes you happy, providing a sense of accomplishment daily, 1 Timothy 4:8.

6) Once a week, write down, preferably in a journal, goals that you want to fulfill before the day, week or month is over.  This exercise provides needed vision for the future, Hosea 4:6.

7) Devote time once a month either helping, serving and volunteering within your church or community.  It’s better to give than receive.

May these ideas inspire you develop your own daily/weekly disciplines and practices which will lead you toward a foundation for victory.  May God honor the commitments you make to better yourself in 2014!

by Jay Mankus

Flight School

Since the extinction of the dinosaurs, likely a result of the atmospheric changes following the flood, Genesis 2:5, the eagle has become king of the air.  With only one known predator, the condor, eagles reign in the sky above.  This explains why condors attempt to bring eagles to the ground, digging in their talons, using their superior weight to eliminate an eagles flight advantage.  However, unless a condor can get an eagle to the ground, this predator will go hungry until another carcass is located.

In this culture, predators lurk on every corner, looking to pounce on a smaller or weaker opponent.  One of the few defense mechanisms an eaglet has is their God given ability to fly.  Yet, until their father pushes each eaglet out of the comfort of home, their nest, this talent remains hidden.  Thus, the daddy eagle introduces his children to flight school, allowing each adolescent to fall before swooping in to catch a youngster before they hit the ground.  This process continues several times until each student takes flight, gliding on eagles wings, Isaiah 40:31.

In the same manner, Christ followers must learn to spiritually fly by fanning into flame the unique gift or gifts God has blessed each with, 2 Timothy 1:6.  Satan is the condor in our lives, using the world as a vehicle for destruction.  If you are not careful, specific sins will take hold of you, dragging you downward, often resulting in crash landings.  In this flight school, there is no commencement or graduation.  Rather, this teaching never ends, a life long pursuit, Colossians 4:2-3.  Using the Bible as its manual, this school’s final destination will take you where few have been, but many will be, John 14:2.

by Jay Mankus

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