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The Fight to Survive

The song I Will Survive was written and composed by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris. The first recording of this song was done by Gloria Gaynor in 1978. As a top-selling song, I Will Survive became a popular disco anthem. The lyrics just prior to the opening chorus reads “Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?” This line leads into “Oh, no, not I, I will survive. Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive.
I’ve got all my life to live, I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive, I will survive, hey, hey.

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

Over the past 9 months, the fight to survive has taken on a new meaning. Between the Coronavirus, the lock down designed to flatten the curve, wearing masks in public and the stress to keep up with your bills has worn down countless souls. Meanwhile, as individuals have been stuck inside their homes, addiction, abuse, depression and suicide has skyrocketed. All it takes is just one more setback to push people over the edge, losing the will to live and survive. While I’ve probably been more fortunate than most in 2020, I too have known individuals who have lost their battle with COVID-19.

In which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—Ephesians 2:2

While some have blamed God for this worldwide plague, the Bible points to a spiritual enemy. Jesus calls this character a thief, seeking to kill your dreams, steal your joy and eliminate the concept of hope. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul eludes to the spiritual dimension where Lucifer reigns, commanding demons to attack at a moments notice. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 provides advice, directions and insight to deal with these dark powers. The only way to fight back is by using spiritual weapons. May this blog encourage you to not lose hope so that you will survive your next trial.

by Jay Mankus

The Pursuit of Love

The popular board game Trivial Pursuit was created on December 15 1979, by Chris Haney and Scott Abbott. The concept for this game was conceived while Abbott and Haney were playing Scrabble one night. Perhaps, the beer these Canadian newspaper editors were drinking allowed their minds to consider the possibilities. For the past forty years, this game has inspired competitive individuals toward a pursuit of knowledge.

But earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces (the higher gifts and the choicest graces). And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one that is better by far and the highest of them all—love], 1 Corinthians 12:31.

In the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul wrote about another pursuit. Framed between “the love chapter in the Bible,” Paul encourages Christians to pursue love in the context of spiritual gifts. Instead of creating a divide within the body of Christ by claiming, “my gift is better than yours,” Paul reminds believers to make love your inspiration. When love becomes your motivation to act, God gets the glory, not you.

Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire [this] love [make it your aim, your great quest]; and earnestly desire and cultivate the spiritual endowments (gifts), especially that you may prophesy (interpret the divine will and purpose in inspired preaching and teaching), 1 Corinthians 14:1.

Based upon the passage above, love is a mindset that you should seek to acquire and pursue. This pursuit is so important to Paul that it has become his aim. earnest desire, and great quest to obtain love. Genuine love is selfless, seeing how your own spiritual gift can be used to fulfill God’s will. This pursuit doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, as Christians ascertain, discover and cultivate spiritual gifts, the pursuit of love is possible with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

Civil Disobedience?

In the past few years, criminal justice reform has changed how law makers view crime. New legislation introduced by California no longer prosecutes individuals who shop lift items under one thousand dollars. This decision has created a loop hole that appears to encourage civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is the active refusal of a citizen to obey certain laws, demands, orders or commands of a government.

So they brought them and set them before the council (Sanhedrin). And the high priest examined them by questioning, 28 Saying, We definitely commanded and strictly charged you not to teach in or about this Name; yet here you have flooded Jerusalem with your doctrine and you intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us, Acts 5:27-28.

During the first century, followers of Jesus needed to comply with Roman and religious regulations. The Sanhedrin served as the supreme Jewish legislative and judicial court. The context of the passage above finds that disciples were preaching and teaching Jesus as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. This was in conflict with the council’s beliefs. Thus, the disciples were warned to stop publicly teaching the gospel message.

Then Peter and the apostles replied, We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, Whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree (cross). 31 God exalted Him to His right hand to be Prince and Leader and Savior and Deliverer and Preserver, in order to grant repentance to Israel and to bestow forgiveness and release from sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these things, and the Holy Spirit is also, Whom God has bestowed on those who obey Him, Acts 5:29-32.

Instead of backing down to comply with religious leaders, the apostles take a stand. When man made rules go around the teachings of the Bible, Peter explains why civil disobedience is necessary on this occasion. Instead of abandoning their convictions, the apostles stayed true to their beliefs. When you fast forward to later in the first century, many of Jesus’ disciples were willing to die rather than deny their faith. This is the moral dilemma that exists when you decide to exercise civil disobedience like the New Jersey owners of Atilis Gym.

by Jay Mankus

When the World Changes Too Fast

The brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault introduced the tale of a Sleeping Beauty, a princess who was cursed, driven into a deep sleep meant to last for 100 years. Meanwhile, Washington Irving details the events of Rip Van Winkle who went missing for 20 years after refusing to do his daily chores. Although these two stories are fairy tales, anyone who is suffering from amnesia in 2020 probably won’t recognize their surrounding once their memory has been restored. While amnesia is a partial or total loss of memory, the Coronavirus has erased years of close contact communication.

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:2.

This year has introduced new practices such as a self quarantine and social distancing as well as reinforcing the importance of washing your hands. Anyone who traveled abroad at the beginning of 2020, would struggle to catch up with the world that is changing so fast. The idea of singing and worshiping God in a church seems strange now. While some states have closed churches completely, others have banned singing in public spaces. Until a cure has been discovered, corporate worship will likely be limited in the months to come.

It is a reason for pride and exultation to which our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world [generally] and especially toward you, with devout and pure motives and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God (the unmerited favor and merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, and keeps, strengthens, and increases them in Christian virtues), 2 Corinthians 1:12.

The apostle Paul comments on how the world influenced first century Christians. In a letter to leaders in Rome, Paul encourages believers to renew their minds daily by studying the Bible. The more you are able to drown out the world, the clearer your calling on earth will become. Meanwhile, a letter to the Church at Corinth pleads readers to embrace the grace of God. It’s easy to beat yourself up by focusing on imperfections, the negative and your weaknesses. However, as the world quickly changes, the Word of God remains the same. This inspired a disciple to proclaim “God has given us everything we need in life,” 2 Peter 1:3-4. Test everything and cling to that which is good.

by Jay Mankus

What the World Needs

One of the favorite weeks of the year as a teacher was attending the annual youth leadership conference. As a member of the Spiritual Life Committee, serving as chaperone for this event gave me the opportunity to recognize and encourage student leaders to follow God’s calling. These events introduced me to cutting edge curriculum designed by Summit Ministries. During one decade, I was blessed to participate in work shops led by Dr. Jeff Meyers and John Stonestreet. During my final year of attending, I was challenged to stop judging the world by engaging our culture with the living Word of God.

Now while Paul was awaiting them at Athens, his spirit was grieved and roused to anger as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned and argued in the synagogue with the Jews and those who worshiped there, and in the marketplace [where assemblies are held] day after day with any who chanced to be there, Acts 17:16-17.

Stonestreet’s best lesson focused on the apostle’s initial visit to Athens. Despite being discouraged and grieved by a city full of idols, Paul tried to find something positive. Based upon the passage below, Paul identified a point of reference, an altar dedicated to an unknown god. Following a similar method of apologetics used by C.S. Lewis in the second portion of Mere Christianity, Paul establishes a common ground. Instead of preaching a message of condemnation, Paul compliments the citizens of Athens, referring to them as religious. Paul also quotes a poet who refers to being an offspring of God. This is what the world needs to hear.

So Paul, standing in the center of the Areopagus [Mars Hill meeting place], said: Men of Athens, I perceive in every way [on every hand and with every turn I make] that you are most religious or very reverent to demons. 23 For as I passed along and carefully observed your objects of worship, I came also upon an altar with this inscription, To the unknown god. Now what you are already worshiping as unknown, this I set forth to you, Acts 17:22-23.

In the aftermath of the George Floyd’s unnecessary death at the hands of a white police officer, buildings, local businesses and vehicles have been set ablaze in Minnesota. As riots continue to spread to other major metropolitan cities, anger over Floyd’s death has fueled this outage. As African Americans, minorities and protesters seek justice for this hate crime, time will tell what the future holds. As for now, cooler heads must prevail. If this country wants to continue it’s reputation as the great American melting pot, we must come together to discover what we have in common. When common beliefs and ideals are embraced, Americans can unite over the freedoms laid out in the Bill of Rights.

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

Irrevocable

Irrevocable is defined as not able to be changed, reversed, or recovered. The context of this term involves absolute, final and unalterable results. Once a decision is made by God, whether it’s a calling, eternal destiny or spiritual gift, this is permanent. The apostle Paul’s usage of irrevocable in the passage below supports the theological belief, “once saved always saved.”

For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call,] Romans 11:29.

Paul is eluding to the sovereign will of God in this portion of his letter to the church at Rome. Feeling compelled to re-enforce the covenant of grace, Paul assures first century followers of Christ that God’s promises never change. Whatever God purposes is never reversed or revoked. Thus, this verse serves as a form of assurance to encourage anyone filled with concern, doubts or uncertainty.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved at heart. So the Lord said, I will destroy, blot out, and wipe away mankind, whom I have created from the face of the ground—not only man, [but] the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air—for it grieves Me and makes Me regretful that I have made them. But Noah found grace (favor) in the eyes of the Lord, Genesis 6:5-8.

The Old Testament provides a complete picture of God’s true character. Prior to the great flood in Genesis, wickedness spread throughout the earth. Just like during the era of Judges, individuals began to do what was right in their own eyes. As God watched from heaven, His heart was broken. Instead of destroying every human being, Noah found favor in God’s eyes. When the Lord sought to destroy the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah, the prayers of Abraham in Genesis 18 persuaded God to save the righteous. When everything is put together, you may not always understand the mind of God, but his call and gifts are irrevocable.

by Jay Mankus

The Prompting

The term prompting refers to the action of saying something to encourage, persuade, or remind someone to do or say something. Promptings may be inspired by advice, conviction, inducement, peer pressure or the urging of a loved one. If a prompting is not immediately acted upon, this reminder fades away until a new sense of urgency renews a willing desire to act.

When we were living in the flesh (mere physical lives), the sinful passions that were awakened and aroused up by [what] the Law [makes sin] were constantly operating in our natural powers (in our bodily organs, in the sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh), so that we bore fruit for death, Romans 7:5.

According to the apostle Paul, spiritual promptings are often ignored, distracted by greater physical promptings to drink, eat or sleep. Instead of operating in the supernatural, most human beings spend a majority of their earthly lives chasing worldly passions. Due to strong fleshly desires, sinful passions are awakened and aroused, prompted by sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh. This explains the internal tug of war described in Galatians 5:16-18.

But now we are discharged from the Law and have terminated all intercourse with it, having died to what once restrained and held us captive. So now we serve not under [obedience to] the old code of written regulations, but [under obedience to the promptings] of the Spirit in newness [of life], Romans 7:6.

The only way to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit is by terminating all intercourse with the flesh. If you are confused by my analogy, I’m just quoting the passage above. The apostle Paul is simply suggesting that spiritual fruit is conceived by following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Colossians 3:1-9 is a good reference point, a call to die to self by setting your heart and mind and things above, eternal treasures. While ignoring physical promptings is not easy, the Spirit is willing to overcome a weak body, Matthew 26:41.

by Jay Mankus

Receiving New Courage

Although the Wizard of Oz debuted in 1939, this became one of my favorite films as a child 40 years later. For some reason, reruns were broadcast twice a year, once before Easter and the other around Thanksgiving. The thought of a scarecrow searching for a brain, a tinman desperately wanting a heart and a cowardly lion hoping to find courage struck a cord with my soul. This film made me believe that it’s possible to receive new courage.

And the [Christian] brethren there, having had news of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and received new courage, Acts 28:15.

During a prolonged trip from Jerusalem to Rome, taking nearly 6 months, Paul seems to be wore down. Luke doesn’t expound upon why, but the passage above illuminates how the Christian community lifted his spirits. There are no details about who encouraged Paul or what was said, yet it’s clear that the words exchanged empowered Paul. After receiving strength to face the adversity of another trial, God prepared Paul for what lied ahead in Rome.

That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination]. 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 1:6-7.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a teenage pastor called Timothy. Apparently, Paul received news that Timothy had become fearful, timid about speaking out against wrong behavior and teaching. Paul reiterates that this inclination is not from God. Rather, the Lord has given believers a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Therefore, if you are searching for courage today, look no further than the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

When Teenagers Fall

As a former youth pastor, I understand the challenge of getting the attention and gaining the respect of teenagers. Some experts have blamed the loss in attention span to video games, tuning out adults who aren’t interesting. As technological advances continue, this communicate gap will likely expand causing many teenagers to fall asleep spiritually.

Now on the first day of the week (Sunday), when we were gathered together to break bread (share communion), Paul began talking with them, intending to leave the next day; and he kept on with his message until midnight. Now there were many lamps in the upper room where we were assembled, Acts 20:7-8.

A first centurion historian records an unusual event that occurs inside of a three story home, similar to a Cape Cod attic. According to Luke, Paul talked for several hours until midnight. A teenager named Eutychus struggled to stay awake, sitting next to an open window. While a steady breeze appears to keep Eutychus awake initially, at midnight this teenager fell asleep near the edge of the window. Gravity caused Eutychus to fall down and out, three stories to the ground, dead on arrival.

And there was a young man named Eutychus (“Lucky”) sitting on the window sill. He was sinking into a deep sleep, and as Paul kept on talking longer and longer, he was completely overcome by sleep and fell down from the third story; and he was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down and threw himself on him and embraced him, and said [to those standing around him], “Do not be troubled, because]he is alive,” Acts 20:9-10.

In one of the strangest healing accounts in the Bible, the apostle Paul hugs Eutychus back to life. Since Luke is a doctor, this event appears to dumbfounded him, unable to give any type of logical explanation for how Eutychus is resuscitated. One valuable lesson from this true story is that most teenagers prefer a hug over a rebuke. A public scolding often results in bitterness and rebellion. Meanwhile, using tough love via a hug can diffuse a volatile situation. Thus, the next time you witness a teenager falling asleep spiritually, use a sincere embrace to bring them back to life.

by Jay Mankus

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