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The Impulses of the Flesh

A sudden strong and unreflective urge doesn’t wait for an invitation. Like an itch that doesn’t go away, impulses tend to feed on moments of weakness. Whether this is a compulsive desire to raid your fridge for food in the middle of the night or an urge to buy whatever you see, impulses of the flesh are hard to control or tame. The more you feed these cravings, the hungrier your flesh becomes. Addictions, bad habits and poor decisions are merely byproducts of out of control impulses.

Among these we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh [our behavior governed by our corrupt and sensual nature], obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind [our cravings dictated by our senses and our dark imaginings]. We were then by nature children of [God’s] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation, like the rest of mankind, Ephesians 2:3.

In the lyrics of their song Slow Fade, Casting Crowns eludes to the impulses of the flesh. Using the expression “the second glance,” this opens the door for enticement to consume human souls. One of Jesus’ disciples refers to this as the lust of the eyes in 1 John 2:16. If the eyes are the lamp of the body, Matthew 6:22-23, as soon as eyes convince your mind to act, the impulses of the flesh take over. This may explain the apostle Paul’s confession in Romans 7:19, “I can’t control myself.”

But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). 15 Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death. 16 Do not be misled, my beloved brethren, James 1:14-16.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consumed by the agony of defeat, the apostle Paul does provide a solution in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Like an athlete going into strict training, extinguishing the impulses of the flesh requires complete concentration. The includes discipline, focus, and the will power to regain control of your body. Essentially, you need to exchange the impulses of the flesh with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. This process is made complete by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

Walk by this Rule

“Walk This Way” was written by Aerosmith’s lead singer Steven Tyler and lead guitar Joe Perry. Perry came up with this tune while “fooling around” on his guitar back in 1974. Tyler points out that the lyrics are sexually charged, based upon an experienced girl who is in control of a relationship. From a spiritual point of view, taking a walk on the wild side is not setting a good example; nor is this a rule to follow.

For neither is circumcision [now] of any importance, nor uncircumcision, but [only] a new creation [the result of a new birth and a new nature in Christ Jesus, the Messiah], Galatians 6:15.

At the conclusion of a first century letter, the apostle Paul urges Galatians to walk by a specific rule. A rule is a set of explicit, understood regulations and or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere. Paul is referring to the passage above. Instead of following a set of rigid Jewish customs, Paul’s rule to emulate is becoming a new creation in Christ Jesus. Paul’s call is to walk by this spiritual way.

Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule [who discipline themselves and regulate their lives by this principle], even upon the [true] Israel of God! – Galatians 6:16

However, abiding by this rule requires two keys elements: discipline and self-regulation. The context of discipline points back to Galatians 5:16-25, pushing back against earthly desires by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. The regulate aspect refers to controlling and maintaining a Christ like mindset. Similar to Paul words in Colossians 3:1-9, to become spiritually alive you have to put to death your old self. Walk by this rule.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming and the Overcomer

Overcoming refers to one of three scenarios. To defeat another in competition or conflict such as overcoming the opposing team to earn a victory. To deal with successfully by prevailing over a series of obstacles or mount a comeback to redeem yourself. Finally, to overpower with a will to survive, despite being overcome by emotions or personal grief. However, when you examine this word, overcoming takes consistency, discipline, and effort to push on no matter what trial you face.

But he who keeps (treasures) His Word [who bears in mind His precepts, who observes His message in its entirety], truly in him has the love of and for God been perfected (completed, reached maturity). By this we may perceive (know, recognize, and be sure) that we are in Him: Whoever says he abides in Him ought [as [a personal debt] to walk and conduct himself in the same way in which He walked and conducted Himself, 1 John 2:5-6.

Well, 2020 has been like a tsunami that keeps on rising, crashing higher and harder with every wave. Life long dreams to own a business have been either derailed or wrecked for countless entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, college graduates are waiting and waiting for a job in their field, wondering if amassing thousands of dollars in debt was really worth it? Anyone who has endured the Coronavirus, statewide lock downs and job insecurity knows how difficult it is to overcome all of the setbacks 2020 has brought.

Yet you still have a few [persons’] names in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes, and they shall walk with Me in white, because they are worthy and deserving. Thus shall he who conquers (is victorious) be clad in white garments, and I will not erase or blot out his name from the Book of Life; I will acknowledge him [as Mine] and I will confess his name openly before My Father and before His angels, Revelation 3:4-5.

Yet, this is where faith comes into the equation, crying out to an invisible God whose Son has already overcome death, 1 Corinthians 15:54-58. If you feel like you can’t overcome the mountain currently blocking you from achieving success, jump on the Jesus Train to get you over the hump. While the Lord doesn’t promise an easy ride, cling to the one who knows what it takes to be an overcomer. During an intimate conversation with his disciples, Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life, John 14:6. Don’t be afraid to ride on Jesus’ coat tails until you regain your strength to carry on. Get your ticket to ride the J-Train today.

by Jay Mankus

The Fear of Missing Out

FOMO is a social anxiety disorder that stems from the belief that others might be having fun while the person experiencing the anxiety is not present. Likely a byproduct and symptom of social media, the fear of missing out is characterized by a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing. This condition mostly affects teenagers and college students who struggle with self-esteem issues.

Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice, Isaiah 41:10.

An Old Testament prophet who died a martyr death addresses fear in the passage above. According to biblical historians, Isaiah was suspended upside down between two trees by Manasseh around 685 Before Christ. While it’s unclear if he was given the chance to recant his faith, Isaiah was literally sawed in two. This unseemly fate occurred to a man who once said, “there is nothing to fear when you’re in God’s hands.”

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:7.

The apostle Paul builds upon Isaiah’s words in one of two letters to a teenage pastor. Pointing to the power of the Holy Spirit, the best way to overcome fear is by looking up to God. Instead bowing down to foreign spirits of cowardice and fear, God provides the discipline necessary to confront and conquer FOMO. Since you can’t be everywhere that you want, listen to God’s Spirit, Galatians 5:25, so you’re where God needs you to be.

by Jay Mankus

Praying in the Spirit

In the first century, churches planted following missionary journey visits by the apostle Paul met in homes or outside, often the banks of local rivers. In a letter to the church at Corinth, Paul provides some useful tips for those members who participate in home churches. This guideline is found in 1 Corinthians 14:26. While singing hymns, teaching, and utterances are the heart of these gatherings, praying in the Spirit sets the tone.

For if I pray in an [unknown] tongue, my spirit [by the Holy Spirit within me] prays, but my mind is unproductive [it bears no fruit and helps nobody], 1 Corinthians 14:14.

Unfortunately, the spirit is willing, but human bodies are weak, Matthew 26:41. This reality motivated Paul to learn to pray in the Spirit, Ephesians 6:18. Since there is a battle for human souls, Galatians 5:16-18 and Ephesians 6:12, keeping in step with God is essential, Ephesians 5:25. Whenever you allow the flesh to control your behavior, Romans 7:15, it’s only a matter of time before disobedience, failure or sin arrives.

Then what am I to do? I will pray with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will also pray [intelligently] with my mind and understanding; I will sing with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will sing [intelligently] with my mind and understanding also, 1 Corinthians 14:15.

Therefore, praying in the Spirit by inviting the Holy Ghost to direct and guide your thoughts is key. You can’t base your faith upon how you feel. During a letter to the church at Colosse, Paul suggests that you should let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, Colossians 3:15-16. The more you meditate upon God’s Word and allow Jesus’ teaching to dwell within you, a spiritual foundation is laid to turn a simple prayer into an encounter with God by praying in the Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Another Form of False Prophets

Moses is one of the first Jewish leaders to warn Israel concerning false prophets.  In the passage below, Moses provides a standard to determine if someone is speaking a message from God or simply presumptuously.  Unfortunately, some so called prophets are influenced by arrogance, a brazen attitude or overconfidence.  This lack of discipline results in false predictions, promises and statements.

When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord and the thing does not happen or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him, Deuteronomy 18:22.

Since 1960, a Green New Deal has been proposed by a number of progressive candidates such as George McGovern, Al Gore and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  The most recent proposal from AOC, drafted in December of 2018, included a warning that the United States would suffer irreversible coastal damage if environmental changes aren’t enacted soon.  During a recent interview, the author of this latest Green New Deal proposal said “the Green New Deal is not primarily about addressing the climate crisis, but about replacing America’s capitalist economy with a more socialist one.”

For false Christs and false prophets will appear and they will provide great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect (God’s chosen ones). 25 Listen carefully, I have told you in advance, Matthew 24:24-25.

While Moses does not call presumptuous prophets liars, Jesus is more blunt in the New Testament.  Anyone who gives inaccurate, false or misleading statements about God are called false prophets.  Yet, the charisma of some of these individuals will cause many devout Christians to be deceived by what appears to be good intentions.  This led the apostle Paul to urge believers to test everything you hear with the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.  Thus, the next time you hear a statement that seems too good to be true, cross reference this with God’s Word so that you are not fooled by another form of false prophets.

by Jay Mankus

Speed Trap

Back in 1986, I was introduced to the need for speed. The film Top Gun coincided with the year I received my driver’s license. Thus, when Maverick and Goose approach their fighter jet, played by Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards, I understood their conversation, “I feel the need, the need for speed.”

Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]; James 1:19.

I was naïve back then, unaware of the speed traps lurking around each corner. Nine months after I got my license I received my first speeding ticket, flying down the St. George’s Bridge, oblivious to the cop at the bottom of the hill. This past Monday, I spent the day in traffic court for my son Daniel who received a ticket Christmas Eve, driving to my parents house after work. Hopefully, he too learned a valuable listen.

For the [resentful, deep-seated] anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God [that standard of behavior which He requires from us], James 1:20.

The Bible has an interesting perspective on speed traps. Instead of focusing on driving, the context above refers to speeding up and slowing down. The earthly brother of Jesus encourages first century Christians to be quick to listen. Apparently, the need for speed is centered around becoming a better listener. Meanwhile, you must fight the urge to become angry, slowing down as a form of discipline to tame your tongue. Therefore, the next time you get behind the wheel, dial in your ears toward heaven so that you avoid any urge for a lead foot or road rage.

by Jay Mankus

Grounded

During my years as a teenager, grounding was a common form of discipline. When a child became as tall as their parent or guardian, grounding replaced spanking for inappropriate, rebellious or wrong behavior. If you received bad grades on a report card, the punishment would range from grounded for a weekend, month or marking period depending upon how bad or the strictness of your parents.

For the Lord disciplines and corrects those whom He loves, And He punishes every son whom He receives and welcomes [to His heart].” You must submit to [correction for the purpose of] discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? – Hebrews 12:6-7

Grounded also refers to a pilot who is prohibited or prevented from flying. In the 2012 film Flight starring Denzel Washington, pilot Whip Whittaker is on a routine flight from Orlando to Atlanta. When the plane suffers a
severe mechanical breakdown in midair, Whittaker played by Washington
does a miraculous job crash-landing this plane. Initially, Whip is treated like a hero until a toxicology test reveals traces of alcohol and cocaine in his blood stream. Thus, Whittaker is grounded until the investigation into this crash is complete.

For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems sad and painful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness [right standing with God and a lifestyle and attitude that seeks conformity to God’s will and purpose], Hebrews 12:11.

When I was young, I remember my initial spankings. This isn’t because of any emotional scars. Rather, it’s the words my parents shared prior to being spanked, “this is going to hurt me more than you.” My sarcastic mind didn’t understand what they were trying to say until I read Hebrews 12. Discipline is a form a love, extreme intervention at times to alter the steps of a wayward child. While grounding didn’t seem like a good idea when I was a teenager, now as a parent grounding has a new meaning. Although the PC police frowns upon biblical discipline, may the Lord give you insight and wisdom to discipline you own or future children properly.

by Jay Mankus

You Don’t Say…

Say You Will was one of Foreigner’s last songs to crack the Top 10 in the United States. Lou Gramm and Mick Jones co-wrote “Say You Will” for this classic British American rock band. Released as a single on December 5th, 1987, the lyrics refer to a relationship on the fritz. Similar to an on again, off again agreement, the band sings about wanting their girl to be mine tonight.

If a brother or sister is without [adequate] clothing and lacks [enough] food for each day, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace [with my blessing], [keep] warm and feed yourselves,” but he does not give them the necessities for the body, what good does that do? – James 2:15-16

Sometimes you have to leave the English language to find a word that gives a more accurate description of what you are trying to say. In the context of living out what you say, the best term I have found comes from Greek. Ethos refers to the moral element that determines a character’s action. In other words, you don’t have to say this or that. Rather, over time your actions demonstrate a genuine and perceived care and concern for others.

But prove yourselves doers of the word [actively and continually obeying God’s precepts], and not merely listeners [who hear the word but fail to internalize its meaning], deluding yourselves [by unsound reasoning contrary to the truth], James 1:22.

Before finishing analogies, parables and sermons, Jesus often urged crowds to be doers. Anyone can listen, but it takes discipline, effort and focus to put Jesus’ words into action. In the parable of the two sons, one promises to do a task but doesn’t. The other son initially rejects this request but ends up doing it anyway. The point of today’s blog is don’t say you will, just do it!

by Jay Mankus

Discipline, Fasting and Nutrition

Staying active can help your metabolism from slowing down.  According to an article on Livestrong.com, thermogenesis, the food processing part of your metabolism actually remains fairly steady throughout your adult life.  This is where discipline comes into play, resisting the urge to satisfy the earthly desires of hunger.  In the context of Olympic athletes, the apostle Paul refers to the rigid training necessary to compete at this level.  Like a boxer preparing for a title bout, discipline is essential to get yourself in the best possible shape to reach your full potential.

Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

Hunger is often dictated by the overall mood you are in.  Upon hearing bad news, appetite can be lost.  When a secret service agent, a body guard to the king receives news of Israel’s vulnerable state, Nehemiah is brought to tears.  This weeping inspired a fast, crying out to God in prayer for a plan to restore the walls surrounding Jerusalem.  Nehemiah’s fast lasted for a season, three to four months.  At the conclusion of this fast, detailed in chapter 2, God provides a clear vision, a plan of action to quickly restore this structure.  During any fast, abstaining from food for a period of time, tends to alter your perspective, seeing life or situations through God’s eyes.

They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its [fortified] gates have been burned (destroyed) by fire.”  Now it came about when I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying [constantly] before the God of heaven, Nehemiah 1:3-4.

When Babylon takes Israel captive in the Old Testament, chief officials brought some young boys to Babylon.  The goal was to retrain these young men into the ways of Babylonian traditions.  When a commander forced these men to alter their Jewish diet, a few refused to adhere to this daily ration.  Rather, Daniel came up with a ten day test.  This combination of fruit, vegetables and water is known as the Daniel fast.  At the end of this ten day challenge, those who participated with Daniel appeared to be healthier than those who ate the king’s finest food.  Learning to balance exercise with nutrition not only makes you feel better, but improves your overall appearance.

But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile (taint, dishonor) himself with the king’s finest food or with the wine which the king drank; so he asked the commander of the officials that he might [be excused so that he would] not defile himself, Daniel 1:8.

In the past decade, churches have challenged members of their congregation to participate in a fast each January.  Depending upon the pastor, fasts vary from a Daniel fast, media fast to a strict fluid only fast.  Over the last four years, I have done a nutrition based fast, giving up soda and other unhealthy foods I tend to eat.  I have had mixed results.  During the first fast, I was focused and dedicated, losing nearly twenty pounds in January.  Unfortunately, my latest fasts have been unproductive.  I guess I entered each of these without my heart truly into it.  Thus, the lack of results speaks for itself.  As a new year approaches, may the Holy Spirit prepare your hearts and mind now so that your next fast will be transformational.

by Jay Mankus

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