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The Struggle to Conform to God’s Will

Have you ever wondered, “why is it so hard to find your place in this world?” While you may have discovered your spiritual gift, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, finding the ideal position where you can flourish is no small task. If you are blessed to be able to actually do what you love, there is still one thing to consider. Are you serving the Lord with your God given talents or do you find yourself struggling to conform with God’s will?

Concerning this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull in your [spiritual] hearing and sluggish [even [f]slothful in achieving spiritual insight]. 12 For even though by this time you ought to be teaching others, you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God’s Word. You have come to need milk, not solid food, Hebrews 5:11-12.

According to one biblical author, struggling to conform to God’s will is a sign of spiritual immaturity. From a psychological perspective, Abraham Maslow suggests that there are certain basic needs that haven’t been met or fulfilled. Subsequently, most people go throughout life without reaching what Maslow calls self-realization. The apostle Paul provides an alternative view based upon developing the mindset of offering your body as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1.

For everyone who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action), for he is a mere infant [not able to talk yet]! 14 But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law, Hebrews 5:13-14.

Paul’s teaching compliments the passage above. When you struggle to conform with God’s will, one of three issues is likely present. Either you’re not living a purpose driven life, your thoughts tend to dwell on the sinful nature rather than the Holy Spirit or spiritual action and deeds are missing from your faith. Similar to the message Jesus shares with the Pharisees in Matthew 9:10-13, the spiritual healthy are able to take care of themselves by conforming to God’s will. The sick and sinners need a spiritual doctor to show them the way, Romans 12:2.

by Jay Mankus

The Haunting Fear of Death

As September turns to October, normal programming is put on hold for a month. While action films may be weaved in here or there, Halloween related movies will take center stage. This month long marathon seeks to scare the hell out of you. As the deaths quickly accumulate in these slasher classics, the haunting fear of death is often desensitized as villains have their own set of nine lives.

What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered in the ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be afraid of Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna), Matthew 10:27-28.

Growing up my mother was a paramedic, often running off to the nearest accident. emergency or fire. I was sheltered from most of this as a child until my neighbor’s house caught on fire and my next door neighbor was rushed to the hospital. My first brush with death was during a sailboat excursion in the Chesapeake Bay. When our vessel capsized in the middle of the channel, a giant cargo ship was heading straight for us until a good Samaritan pulled us out of the water just in time.

And also that He might deliver and completely set free all those who through the [haunting] fear of death were held in bondage throughout the whole course of their lives.16 For, as we all know, He [Christ] did not take hold of angels [[a]the fallen angels, to give them a helping and delivering hand], but He did take hold of [[b]the fallen] descendants of Abraham [to reach out to them a helping and delivering hand], Hebrews 2:15-16.

By the time I reached high school, a classmate and her family were all killed in a car accident and one of my best friends died of cancer shortly after graduating from high school. Two of my teammates in two different sports committed suicide two years apart. These events conceived in me the haunting fear of death. Yet, when I finally put my complete faith and trust in Jesus in college, this fear gradually subsided once I realized that my eternal future was secure, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Upon graduating from the University of Delaware, I accepted a position as a Summer Work Camp Coordinator. Since the pay wasn’t great, I took a part time job as a Youth Director to put gas in my car. For the first six months of my adult life, I slept on a couch in my sister’s basement. When my car broke down just before Christmas, I depleted all of my savings, without the funds for food or gas. This is my story of overcoming anxiety and panic attacks.

Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to have to eat? or, What are we going to have to drink? or, What are we going to have to wear? 32 For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all, Matthew 6:31-32.

A prosperous future was certainty is doubt, but I knew that God had something better for me. As a desperate man, I found as many odd jobs that I could to survive. In my spare time, I practically lived at Cornerstone Church. I led an Accountability Group and Bible Study at night and painted whenever I wasn’t working. Despite the anxiety and panic living inside of me, serving God daily helped keep me in the present. In my poverty, I put my complete faith and trust in the Lord.

But seek ([z]aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness ([aa]His way of doing and being right), and then all these things [ab]taken together will be given you besides. 34 So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble, Matthew 6:33-34.

Jesus addresses anxiety and panic attacks in his Sermon on the Mount. Instead of directing his message toward human beings, Jesus uses the birds of the air as a way to illustrate how God provides for all creatures. Since God created human beings in His own image, how much more does and will God provide for you and me? Subsequently, when I was $400 short of being able to attend a Youth Ministry Trade School, my church took a love offering for me. I received the exact amount that I needed. In the years that have followed, I don’t always feel peace, but I know the Lord will provide daily bread to survive.

by Jay Mankus

Praying for Participation and Sharing

Early on in a new school year, trying to get students to participate and share their thoughts can be difficult. As a former high school teacher, the only willing participants tend to be the class clown and teacher’s pets trying to earn brownie points. When all of their curriculum, education, and teaching methods fail to produce increased participation, don’t be afraid to pray for students to open up their hearts in your classroom.

[And I pray] that the participation in and sharing of your faith may produce and promote full recognition and appreciation and understanding and precise knowledge of every good [thing] that is ours in [our identification with] Christ Jesus [and unto His glory], Philemon 1:6.

In an obscure first century epistle, the apostle Paul writes to one of his servants in the ministry. While writing from prison, Paul prays for the participation in and the sharing of testimonies. As Christians reflect upon how they came to faith in Christ, your personal story will strike a nerve with a specific audience. The more you find opportunities to weave your faith into daily conversations, other people will begin to appreciate and understand your relationship with God.

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, 1 Peter 3:15.

One of Jesus’ former disciples chimes in on this topic as well. Simon Peter who was never afraid to voice his opinion appears to have gotten wiser in his later years. Based upon the passage above, Peter learned the necessity to be courteous and respectful when sharing his faith. One of my favorite hymns in college was Blessed Assurance which promotes sharing your faith. Whenever I hear the chorus, “this is my story, this is my song,” I am inspired to participate and share my faith. This continues to be a worthy cause to pray for daily.

by Jay Mankus

How Can You Love Your Neighbor When You Hate The Person You’ve Become?

Clive Staples Lewis was an atheist and British writer before becoming a lay theologian. C.S. Lewis once contemplated the concept of loving your neighbor. The following quote reveals his thoughts. You are told to love your neighbor as yourself. How do you love yourself? When I look into my own mind, I find that I do not love myself by thinking myself a dear old chap or having affectionate feelings.” This same dilemma exists today as how can you love your neighbor when many people don’t like the person they’ve become.

Teacher, which [e]kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?] 37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect), Matthew 22:36-37.

Following a series of parables, Jesus is asked by a religious leader a spiritual question. “What’s the most important commandment?” Instead of de-emphasizing the other 9 from the most essential, Jesus divides the commandments into two parts. The first 4 commandments are based upon loving God with the final 6 focused on loving your neighbor. When Christians began to love God with all their hearts, soul and mind, the practice of religion turns into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. 40 These two commandments [f]sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets, Matthew 22:38-40.

When hearts grow cold, love stops naturally flowing out of human beings. If faith is not revived or resuscitated, this lack of love can slowly turn into self hatred for oneself. When sources for love dry up, there is no positivity that bubbles over on to the people you interact with daily. The longer this subtle decay continues, there is no inspiration to love friends and family. The key to loving your neighbor is to tap into the love of God, John 3:16-17. As individuals begin to feel and sense God’s love, desires to pass this on to others is restored. Unfortunately, healing take time. Just hang in there long enough for restoration to ignite your heart with the love of God.

by Jay Mankus

When You Let Someone Down

As a child, whenever my mom yelled my full name, I immediately knew that I did something wrong. When expressions like “what were you thinking” or “I’m so ashamed of you” followed, this was a clear indicator that I let someone down. Whenever people that you care about or love are disappointed by your actions, human consciences produce spirits of conviction and guilt. Seeing the grief that you cause others to feel is not a welcomed sight.

Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]. And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance, Ephesians 5:1-2.

In a letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul addresses individuals who have not lived up to biblical standards. The ideal goal is to become an imitator of God. This is accomplished by emulating the love and life of Jesus. As individuals become willing to offer their lives as a living sacrifice, the Holy Spirit can replace sinful tendencies. Yet, as the Psalmist reminded the apostle Paul, “there is no one righteous; not even one,” Romans 3:9-12.

But immorality (sexual vice) and all impurity [of lustful, rich, wasteful living] or greediness must not even be named among you, as is fitting and proper among saints (God’s consecrated people). Let there be no filthiness (obscenity, indecency) nor foolish and sinful (silly and corrupt) talk, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting or becoming; but instead voice your thankfulness [to God], Ephesians 5:3-4.

Subsequently, every day human beings continue to do the opposite of their initial intentions, Romans 7:15-16. You may be able to tame these sinful cravings temporarily through discipline, but when you let your guard down you will disappoint someone. Beside confession and acts of contrition, James 5:16, reconciliation takes time. Although you can’t go through life trying to please other people, you can develop a will to devote yourself to God.

by Jay Mankus

A Swing and a Miss

Mark Reynolds struck out 223 times during the 2009 Major League Baseball Season. This record in futility was nearly broken by Adam Dunn, Chris Davis, and Yoan Moncada in the last decade. Perhaps, some of these players requested to be benched late in the season to avoid replacing Reynolds for the most strike outs by a hitter in a season. Over the course of a season, batters can strike out on a caught fouled tip, go down looking or with a swing and a miss.

But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. 17 And their teaching [will devour; it] will eat its way like cancer or spread like gangrene. So it is with Hymenaeus and Philetus, 2 Timothy 2:16-17.

In a letter to a teenage pastor, the apostle Paul uses an analogy that is similar to a swing and a miss. Since baseball wasn’t invented until 1839 by Abner Doubleday, Paul uses an archery expression. According to a Creation Today article, the term sin in the Bible comes from archery. To miss the mark in Greek literally means to sin. Therefore, whenever you fail to do what God wants you to, this miss has eternal consequences.

Who have missed the mark and swerved from the truth by arguing that the resurrection has already taken place. They are undermining the faith of some, 2 Timothy 2:18.

When Christian leaders missed the mark in the first century, Paul wasn’t afraid to call these individuals out. Hymenaeus and Philetus were called out by name for undermining the faith of others. What were these two men guilty of? They did not keep to the Scriptures of truth, but deviated from them by using justification to rationalize their behavior. Since everyone misses the mark and swings and misses, Romans 3:9-12, confess your sins as soon as possible so that healing and reconciliation can begin.

by Jay Mankus

Created, Connected and Called

If you’re not careful, life can become like a never ending roller coaster with corkscrews, free falls and upside down loops that make you dizzy. When your feet hit the pavement after immediately getting off this ride, it may take a couple of minutes before you can walk in a straight line again. On the surface, an amusement ride may look harmless, but the thrill that follows can affect your body for the rest of the day. Whenever you experience this uneasy feeling, all you want to do is find a seat. hoping that you’ll recover quickly.

Do not blush or be ashamed then, to testify to and for our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for His sake, but [[d]with me] take your share of the suffering [to which the preaching] of the Gospel [may expose you, and do it] in the power of God. [For it is He] Who delivered and saved us and called us with a calling in itself holy and leading to holiness [to a life of consecration, a vocation of holiness]; [He did it] not because of anything of merit that we have done, but because of and to further His own purpose and grace (unmerited favor) which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began [eternal ages ago], 2 Timothy 1:8-9.

From a spiritual perspective, one of Satan’s schemes to disconnect you from God. Like a long distance relationship that falls apart over time, separation causes you to forget what drew you together. Likewise, if you go a couple of days, weeks or a month with reading the Bible, spiritual qualities which once flowed naturally out of you begin to evaporate. If this persists, Christians may forgot who created them, faith will start to crack and the calling you once received from God can become like a distant memory.

We are assured and know that [[j]God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew [of whom He was [k]aware and [l]loved beforehand], He also destined from the beginning [foreordaining them] to be molded into the image of His Son [and share inwardly His likeness], that He might become the firstborn among many brethren. 30 And those whom He thus foreordained, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified (acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself). And those whom He justified, He also glorified [raising them to a heavenly dignity and condition or state of being], Romans 8:28-30.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul touches on God’s persistence throughout life. Like the loving Father portrayed by Jesus in the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, God is waiting for you to return. Just as front porches once served as ways to pass the time each summer, God is the parent in a rocking chair waiting for you to come home. When you do, minds will be refreshed by your heavenly Creator. Hearts will start to sense the Holy Spirit drawing you closer to reconnect with God. Finally, as you reflect upon the Bible and pray, God’s will and purpose will be revealed so you can continue this life long journey known as faith.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Hard to Get Plugged In When You Can’t Find the Outlet

In this age of technology and social media, there are several cords and plugs scattered around my house and inside my car. When a cell phone begins to loose it’s power, it’s helpful to have one of these chargers already plugged in. However, what happens when a cord stops working or the battery stops holding a charge. Meanwhile, if you visit a new country in Europe and don’t buy an adapter prior to your trip, it’s hard to get plugged in when you can’t find the right outlet.

For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [[d]full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue), 2 Peter 1:3.

One of Jesus’ disciples uses a similar analogy while writing a letter to first century Christians scattered throughout the Middle East. While Peter doesn’t go into specific details, the passage above suggests that Christians began to feel powerless to change their lives. Thus, the beginning of Peter’s letter serves as a pep talk to uplift those Christians who feel defeated. Paul reminds his audience that God has given us everything we need in this life.

By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4.

What Peter is referencing is the power of the Holy Spirit. Whenever anyone enters into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-10, this spiritual counselor becomes available. However, unless you’re plugged in spiritually via prayer and studying the Bible, you won’t be able to tap into God’s power. Therefore, when your faith starts to erode due to moral decay, remember the promises in the Bible which is the outlet you need to get plugged in on a daily basis.

by Jay Mankus

The Mystic Secret of Faith

The English term Mysticism comes from the Greek word μύω meaning “I conceal”. The Greek derivative μυστικός, also known as mystikos refers to “an initiate.” The Christian definition of Mysticism is that part, or element, of Christian belief and practice that concerns the preparation for, the consciousness of, and the effect of a direct and transformative presence of God. The mystic part comes into play when the Holy Ghost, an invisible presence can transform the life of a rebellious and wayward soul.

They must possess the mystic secret of the faith [Christian truth as hidden from ungodly men] with a clear conscience, 1 Timothy 3:9.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul claims that the truth about Christianity is hidden from the ungodly. Since Paul doesn’t go into greater details, perhaps Paul is referring to individuals who are self absorbed by their own sinful nature. Jesus uses imagery like light shining into darkness, John 1:5. One of the ways truth is hidden is when Satan snatches away what was sown in someone’s heart, Matthew 13:19. When you add this to lust of the flesh and pride. 1 John 2:15-17, the love of the world prevents many from trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior, Romans 10:9-10.

But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you, John 14:26.

As Passion Week began, Jesus gave hints to the transformative presence of God. The Holy Spirit is like an inner guide who helps, discerns, intercedes and guide you toward what God wants you to do and where you should go. Jesus demonstrates the mystic secret of faith while praying early in the morning, Mark 1:35-36. While the disciples had their own ideas on how they were going to spend the day, the Holy Spirit gave Jesus precise instructions. To a certain extent, I never really know what topic I am going to write about each week, but when the Spirit moves I follow by typing until my blogs are completed. In the end, faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ, Romans 10:17.

by Jay Mankus

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