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Cut It Out… Or Be Cut Off

There were two common expressions the parents of teenagers in my neighbors used while trying to discipline unruly kids. The first was “knock it off,” but my dad often said, “cut it out.” When your father is a former defensive end and tight end in college, you do exactly what he says. One Old Testament prophet and Jesus make similar points in the passages below:

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened at all, that it cannot save, nor His ear dull with deafness, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness. None sues or calls in righteousness [but for the sake of doing injury to others—to take some undue advantage]; no one goes to law honestly and pleads [his case] in truth; they trust in emptiness, worthlessness and futility, and speaking lies! They conceive mischief and bring forth evil! – Isaiah 59:1-4

I came face to face with this expression during the summer before my senior year of college. While playing sand volleyball with my good friend Eddy, I broke my ankle. Instead of enjoying my final month of summer, I was bed-ridden for two weeks. While lying in bed, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper “cut if out or be cut off”. Like the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:15-16, I had become a lukewarm Christian.

 I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit. You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you]. Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing, John 15:1-5.

In the days that followed, I had come to a crossroads of faith. This was God’s way of saying, “make Jesus Lord of your life, Romans 10:9-11, or live for yourself.” At college I was a strong Christian, but at home in Cleveland I was chasing after earthly pleasures. August of 1991 altered my prodigal journey as I came to my spiritual senses to return home for good by beginning to cut out my former way of life, Colossians 3:5-9. May my personal journey inspire you to go all in by making Jesus Lord and Savior.

by Jay Mankus

The Ground to Play

If it wasn’t for recess, I wouldn’t have survived my twelve years in public education. The playground was a place of refuge for me. This was the only place in school where talking wasn’t necessary. Despite being short for my age until high school, my passion for sports quickly shined through. I may not have been strong, but I was fast and obsessed with winning. Meanwhile, this ground to play hid my severe stuttering from my peers. The more I competed at recess opened my eyes to the kind of athlete I could become.

Listen then to the [meaning of the] parable of the sower: 19 [h]While anyone is hearing the Word of the kingdom and does not grasp and comprehend it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the roadside. 20 As for what was sown on thin (rocky) soil, this is he who hears the Word and at once welcomes and accepts it with joy; 21 Yet it has no real root in him, but is temporary (inconstant, [i]lasts but a little while); and when affliction or trouble or persecution comes on account of the Word, at once he is caused to stumble [he is repelled and [j]begins to distrust and desert Him Whom he ought to trust and obey] and he falls away, Matthew 13:18-21.

At a recent LIV Golf clinic for kids in New Jersey, Commissioner Greg Norman shared a power message about competing in sports. Norman encouraged these youngsters to play as more sports as possible as these avenues provide a ground to play. Sports helps you see your strengths while revealing weaknesses as well. Meanwhile, if you want to get better, sports teach the competitive discipline to reach your full potential in life. Yet, for now sports provide the ground to compete and play for kids.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the Word, but the cares of the world and the pleasure and delight and glamour and deceitfulness of riches choke and suffocate the Word, and it yields no fruit. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the Word and grasps and comprehends it; he indeed bears fruit and yields in one case a hundred times as much as was sown, in another sixty times as much, and in another thirty, Matthew 13:22-23.

Jesus shared a first century parable based upon the different environment’s children are born into and are forced to confront in life. After speaking to a crowd, the disciples wanted to know further details about Jesus’ parable. Uses farming an analogy, there are 4 different types of soils farmers face. The first three all have limitations that stunts growth. The ultimate goal is to manage farms so that after years of discipline and hard work, fertile soil yields a great harvest. In the meantime, find ground to play with.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 141: Nice Guy

Today’s song comes from a group that helped me slowly wean myself off of secular music. Fighter reminds of those classic rock bands of the 1980’s. When Amy Wolter takes over the lead vocals, Fighter’s sound becomes reminiscent of Pat Benatar. When Jim Wolter takes control of the microphone, Fighter contains a blend of Asia and Cinderella. Today’s song Nice Guy is a hard hitting tune that addresses addiction, compromise, and spiritual discipline.

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; Hebrews 12:5.

No one likes to be the adult in the room all the time, but discipline is a way to keep the curious out of trouble. Like the words of Patrick Swayze in the 1989 film Road House, a bouncer has to know when it’s time to not be Nice. Swayze plays the cooler, only using violence when it’s absolutely necessary. From a biblical perspective, discipline is a necessary evil, a tool to correct the misguided. May the lyrics of Nice Guy remind you of the importance of rebuking other believers when someone is setting a bad example.

by Jay Mankus

A Measurement for Correction

In this age of analytics, there is always a group of individuals who are crunching numbers to measure how to succeed in the future. This drive to win by outwitting others has taken the human element out of sports. Rather than rely on feel or improvising, owners think that they create a model for success. Yet, at some point human beings fail and discipline is exercised to correct these mistakes and shortcomings.

He who spares his rod [of discipline] hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines diligently and punishes him early. 25 The [uncompromisingly] righteous eats to his own satisfaction, but the stomach of the wicked is in want, Proverbs 13:24-25.

King Solomon writes about a rod of correction. This form of discipline is similar to spanking to steer children in the right direction. Yet, Solomon realized that discipline wasn’t embraced by all of his children. Rather than wanting to be trained, the defiant chose disobedience and rebellion. Like the prodigal son in Luke 15, some people have to learn the hard way before coming to their senses.

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, Hebrews 12:6.

Modern discipline techniques have moved away from physical altercations. Instead time outs rely on isolation to force children to think about what they just did. Unfortunately, this style doesn’t work for every personality. Whatever form a coach, parent or teacher chooses must be done in a spirit of love. The ideal measurement for correction points young people toward the path of righteousness, Matthew 7:13-14.

by Jay Mankus

The Discipline of Believers

As a former teacher at a Christian school, every human being needs discipline. Upon my first day in a classroom, I made the assumption that these kids were all raised in Christian home. When I observed unruly behavior day after day, I was forced to alter my classroom management style. As a rookie in the area of discipline, I struggled to maintain control and order in my first semester. This painful experience led me to understand the need for disciplining believers.

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.

The author of Hebrews addresses individuals who constantly cheapened God’s grace. There was an ungodly belief that spread throughout the first century that the more you sinned, the more God would pour out his grace upon you. This topic is first brought up in Hebrews 6:4-6, warning careless believers of the dangerous path they are going down. Four chapters later, the passage above serves as a grave warning for anyone heading toward the gates of hell. Perhaps this in the Bible’s version of scaring sinners straight back to the narrow path, Matthew 7:13-14.

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 12:5-7

Following the chapter known as the Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11, the author returns to the reason why discipline is necessary. As you go through life, compared to a marathon, certain aspects will where you down over time. Subsequently, when you find yourself falling away from God, correction and discipline is a form of love. As I once taught to my junior high students, biblical boundaries are designed to keep you close to God while keeping dangers and evil out. While no one like to be disciplined in public, this is a necessary for believers to get back on the narrow road which leads to heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Above and Beyond the Call

The backdrop of the New Testament takes place during the Roman Empire. Unless you were a Roman citizen, you had to do a little extra to get noticed. Scholarly versions of the verse below refer to a practice of impressment by the Roman law on Jews. Therefore, when Jesus urges listeners of the Sermon on the Mount to go the extra mile, this action serves as a plea to go above and beyond the call.

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two [miles], Matthew 5:41.

As a parents of 2 boys who ran cross country and a girl who does spring track, I haven’t met many teenagers who love to run. There were a few on St. Georges track team that won back to back state titles, but runners appear to be a dying breed. Running is one of those hobbies that you have to work at, requiring discipline, focus, and mental toughness. When asked to run an additional mile, few have the energy to be up for this challenge.

Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. 27 But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

In the passage above, Paul is appealing to athletes and sports fans. As a home of the Isthmian Games, Corinth would host this Track and Field Event every two years. This would run opposite of the ancient Greek Olympic Games. To win at this level of competition requires commitment, dedication, and resolve. The average person is content to do what is asked of them. However, if you want to step up your game, going the extra mile will persuade Christians to go above and beyond the call.

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

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