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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

Receiving the Holy Spirit

William McDowell – Spirit Break Out (Lyrics) – YouTube

Every generation contains individuals who attempt to reinvent that which has already occurred. Whether as some sort of superiority complex or stubbornness, these confident people refuse to back down regardless of what others believe, proclaim or think. Participating in a debate to expose a specific flawed mindset seems to be a productive use of time. However, when the crowd you are trying to convince doesn’t budge, even persuasive words can’t turn a hardened heart.

O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?] – Galatians 3:1-2

In the middle of the first Century, a group of new Christians formed a sect to appease Jews who didn’t want to let go of following the Torah. According to the apostle Paul, a group known as the Judaizers infiltrated the Church at Galatia. Unwilling to let go of Jewish traditions, these religious leaders began to convince members of the church to add circumcision to salvation. Ingrained within many followers from birth, this new teaching spread quickly throughout the Galatian Church. Subsequently, Jewish Christians began to look down upon and separate from Gentile converts to Christianity. Thus, Paul rebukes leaders in the passage above.

Have you suffered so many things and experienced so much all for nothing (to no purpose)—if it really is to no purpose and in vain? Then does He Who supplies you with His marvelous [Holy] Spirit and works powerfully and miraculously among you do so on [the grounds of your doing] what the Law demands, or because of your believing in and adhering to and trusting in and relying on the message that you heard? – Galatians 3:4-5

In recent years, new debates often related to theology have caused divisions within the 21st century church. One common dispute involves receiving the Holy Spirit. Some denominations claim that this is only accomplished immediately following a believer’s baptisms. Other doctrines refer to a Day of Pentecost moment where individuals experience a similar outpouring of the Holy Spirit. When these two ideologies clash, I’ve witnessed nasty confrontations on both sides. Yet, according to the Bible, Romans 8:1-8 and Romans 10:9-11 highlight how people of faith can receive the Holy Spirit today. May this occur without any hesitation so that lives are transformed by God’s Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Starting Over in 2021

ξεκινώντας από την αρχή is the Greek word for starting over. Meanwhile, the Latin expression for starting over is iterum incipi. When translated literally into English this refers to again, a second time. As 2020 is thankfully ushered out for good, it’s time to hit the reset button. While no one knows for sure how long the Coronavirus will stick around, starting over with a blank canvas gives me hope of a brighter future.

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome, Jeremiah 29:11.

Despite earning a nickname as the weeping prophet, Jeremiah 9:1 and Jeremiah 13:17, there is a glimpse of positive news. In the passage above, the Lord finally gives Jeremiah a message of hope. These future plans includes blessings, dreams and a final outcome worth waiting for. Therefore, if you still haven’t gotten over the worst pandemic in the last century, the Bible provides some encouraging news.

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and [selected] young men shall feebly stumble and fall exhausted; 31 But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired, Isaiah 40:30-31.

Another Old Testament prophet provides an analogy that most adults can relate to. Between the spread of Covid-19, forced closures of businesses and the stress of trying to stay alive, 2020 has worn out countless souls. Thus, as many have lost their energy and joy for life, it’s time to place your faith in God’s hands again. Just as eaglets trusted their parents renew their strength, it’s time to place your faith in God to start over in 2021.

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

What Gifts Will You Bring?

The prophet Isaiah foretold about a caravan of men who sought out the resting place of a newly born king. Described as Magi, astrologers who were experts of the night sky, these wise men put their faith in the promise of a Messiah. This journey wasn’t based upon a hunch or wishful thinking. Rather, these men came bearing gifts, expecting to find what they were looking for. Upon reaching their destination, this wise men were overcome with joy, worshiping and praising God for Jesus.

A multitude of camels [from the eastern trading tribes] shall cover you [Jerusalem], the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all the men from Sheba [who once came to trade] shall come, bringing gold and frankincense and proclaiming the praises of the Lord, Isaiah 60:6.

Each of the offerings brought to Jesus are symbolic of a specific class or state. The gold is associated with kings, the frankincense with priests and myrrh, the emotional state of sadness, used to embalm the dead. Perhaps, this association led Jesus’ disciples to become distracted, confusing the political with the spiritual. Instead of viewing Jesus as the Savior of the World, Peter believed that He would become the physical King of the Jews. This skewed mindset likely influenced Peter to publicly deny knowing Jesus following his arrest.

When they had listened to the king, they went their way, and behold, the star which had been seen in the east in its rising went before them until it came and stood over the place where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were thrilled with ecstatic joy. 11 And on going into the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then opening their treasure bags, they presented to Him gifts—gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And receiving an answer to their asking, they were divinely instructed and warned in a dream not to go back to Herod; so they departed to their own country by a different way, Matthew 2:9-12.

Nearly 2,000 years later, the world is still full of chaos. However, instead of dealing with tyrannical kings, governors and legislators across the country are instituting strict state mandates on houses of worship and how many members of your family can be in the same home on Christmas. These new edicts are distracting people from the true reason for Christmas. Such as what gift will you be offering up to baby Jesus? While you may not have access to gold or frankincense, everyone has something to offer. Whether it’s a gift, talent or unique quality, God is waiting for you to offer up one of these traits to Jesus. What will you give this year?

by Jay Mankus

The Spiritual Dimension

There are 30 passages in the Bible that refer to a spiritual dimension. The most famous occurs in Ephesians 6:12 where the apostle Paul unveils what is out of sight to human eyes. This dimension is transcendence toward something more than what is apparent in the experiences of other dimensions. According to Paul, what lies beneath the surface is an ongoing spiritual battle between powers, rulers and spiritual forces.

Now there was a day when the sons (the angels) of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan (the adversary and accuser) also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, From where did you come? Then Satan answered the Lord, From going to and fro on the earth and from walking up and down on it. And the Lord said to Satan, Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who [reverently] fears God and abstains from and shuns evil [because it is wrong]? Then Satan answered the Lord, Does Job [reverently] fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not put a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have conferred prosperity and happiness upon him in the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has, and he will curse You to Your face, Job 1:6-11.

Although it’s not the first, Job was the first completed book in the Bible. Since chapter 1 references living in the land of dinosaurs, Job likely lived prior to the biblical flood mentioned in Genesis 7. Following a brief introduction, Job is made aware of what lurks out of sight. Whether through prayer or a one on one conversation with God, Job’s spiritual enemy is brought to life. Lucifer is described as a diligent traveler of the earth, seeking to steal, kill and destroy human souls, John 10:10.

But someone will say [to you then], You [say you] have faith, and I have [good] works. Now you show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works [if you can], and I by [good] works [of obedience] will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. So do the demons believe and shudder [in terror and horror such as make a man’s hair stand on end and contract the surface of his skin]! – James 2:18-19

In the middle of the first century, Jesus’ earthly brother writes about demons. Based upon Christian historians, James did not come to faith until after Jesus rose from the dead. While there is no mention of a private conversation with his big brother before ascending into heaven in Acts 1, James was aware of demons. Despite their tricks, demons know the fate that await them, Jude 1:6. While you’re current struggle may not be obvious to you, don’t be surprised if there is a spiritual element to what’s going on in the world today.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Hold Anything Back

As a former high school teacher, I regularly witnessed actions of pausing or hesitating before saying or doing something. Most students were afraid to open up in class, often caving to peer pressure. While discussing hot button topics, some teens would be on the verge of letting their guard down. However, after looking around for a brief moment, many would immediately stop talking, holding back how they really felt.

Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians [we are hiding nothing, keeping nothing back], and our heart is expanded wide [for you]! 12 There is no lack of room for you in [our hearts], but you lack room in your own affections [for us], 2 Corinthians 6:11-12.

During the first century, the apostle Paul noticed a similar pattern. When surface level conversation turned the corner toward spiritual issues, members of the church of Corinth were afraid open up. Perhaps, uneasy about sharing their new found faith in Christ with non-Christian neighbors, spiritual momentum ceased. Apparently, Roman Christians possessed the same issue, ashamed or embarrassed of the gospel, Romans 1:16-17.

By way of return then, do this for me—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also [to us], 2 Corinthians 6:13.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul provides a disclaimer when evangelizing. This warning urges believers not to become unequally yoked with individuals who possess different beliefs, values and worldviews. Some scholars refer to the concept of missionary dating, getting involved with the goal of winning a soul over to Jesus. Yet, those who attempt this are often conflicted and may be led astray. Nonetheless, if you truly love someone who doesn’t know Jesus, don’t hold anything back.

by Jay Mankus

The Cost of Christianity

The expression “to stick out” arose sometime during the 16th century. By the middle of the 18th century, a new idiom replaced this older phrase. Subsequently, “to stick out like a sore thumb” was conceived. In the context of Christianity, to stick out means to be the salt of the earth and light of the world, Matthew 5:13-16. However, when you take a stand spiritually, don’t expect a pat on the back or a round of applause.

Amid honor and dishonor; in defaming and evil report and in praise and good report. [We are branded] as deceivers (impostors), and [yet vindicated as] truthful and honest, 2 Corinthians 6:8.

Apparently, Roman persecution of Christians spread to ancient Greece. Based upon what the apostle Paul had experienced and seen, openly expressing and sharing your faith often faced consequences. Believers were confronted, demanded to stop talking about Jesus and if they continued many were arrested, beaten and died as a martyr. This was the cost of being a Christian in the first century.

[We are treated] as unknown and ignored [by the world], and [yet we are] well-known and recognized [by God and His people]; as dying, and yet here we are alive; as chastened by suffering and [yet] not killed; 2 Corinthians 6:9.

Yet, the apostle Paul was prophetic about how future people of faith would suffer. As if reading an account from a modern newspaper, Paul talks about being branded as an imposter, deceiving atheists. If you’re active on social media, then you’ve seen individuals of the faith community vilified as controversial, dangerous and extremists. Nonetheless, if you are sold out for Jesus, 1 Peter 3:15-16, this is the cost of Christianity.

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

More than Just Work Ethic

Work ethic is the principle that hard work is intrinsically virtuous. Protestant work ethic was brought to New England during the 17th and 18th when Puritans arrived from Great Britain. The Puritan’s believed that it was necessary to be in a covenant relationship with God in order to be redeemed from one’s sinful condition. These fervent followers taught that God had chosen to reveal salvation through preaching, and that the Holy Spirit was the energizing instrument of salvation. Unfortunately, some took this to the extreme, claiming that working hard at one’s call was a sign that you would be saved.

Servants (slaves), be obedient to those who are your physical masters, having respect for them and eager concern to please them, in singleness of motive and with all your heart, as [service] to Christ [Himself]—Not in the way of eye-service [as if they were watching you] and only to please men, but as servants (slaves) of Christ, doing the will of God heartily and with your whole soul; Ephesians 6:5-6.

In the passage above and below, the apostle Paul addresses work ethic by targeting a broad audience. After speaking to fathers about the urge to exasperate their children, Paul moves on to displaying proper conduct. This scope isn’t limited to the poor, but includes administrators, business owners, and those in places of authority and power. Using the Golden Rule as a point of reference, Paul urges individuals to do unto others as you want others to do unto you, Matthew 7:12. This is the root of work ethic, striving to love others as God loves us, Matthew 22:36-40.

Rendering service readily with goodwill, as to the Lord and not to men, Knowing that for whatever good anyone does, he will receive his reward from the Lord, whether he is slave or free. You masters, act on the same [principle] toward them and give up threatening and using violent and abusive words, knowing that He Who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no respect of persons (no partiality) with Him, Ephesians 6:7-9.

When I first started working as a teenager, I was taught the harder you worked, the more money you would make. This wasn’t always true, but if you developed a reputation for being a hard worker, this led to bigger and better opportunities to advance. As someone who has always wrestled with being a workaholic, pacing myself has been a daily battle throughout my life. Subsequently, I tend to burn myself out, addicted to what I am doing until desire and passion fades away. While adopting a good work ethic is important, you don’t want to end up like Martha who lost her childhood faith, Luke 10:38-42. Instead, seek to be more like Mary to entertain Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

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