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When Fears are Replaced by Faith

Everyone has a personality with some more dominant than others. Personality is the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character. While the outgoing tend to be more blunt, the shy leave subtle reminders to get your attention. This could be an exaggerated cough, specific body language or a certain facial expression to signal a need for help.

And Moses with the elders of Israel commanded the people, Keep all the commandments with which I charge you today. And on the day when you pass over the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall set up great stones and cover them with plaster, Deuteronomy 27:1-2.

As Moses was about to hand over leadership responsibilities to Joshua, God used his writing of Deuteronomy to serve as a not so subtle reminder. According to Exodus 4:10-12, Moses was reluctant to be the verbal communicator for Israel. Apparently, Moses possessed a speech impediment, likely some form of stammering or stuttering. As someone who struggled with stuttering for two decades, whenever I opened my mouth, I never knew for sure what would come out.

And you shall write on them all the words of this law when you have passed over, that you may go into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, Deuteronomy 27:3.

Instead of looking at the power of His God, Moses could only see as far as his disability. This lack of faith irritated the Lord, sending his brother Aaron to be the voice piece of God until Moses developed the courage to face his fear. While Exodus does not speak of a healing, Moses began to find his voice during the Ten Plagues. If human beings could simply catch a glimpse of God’s healing power, fears would quickly fade, replaced by faith.

by Jay Mankus

Write It Out in Plain Sight

John Heywood wrote “A Dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue” in the 1500’s. The printing of this book is the first known author to address the concept “out of sight out of mind”. As God called Moses to write out what the Jewish faith refers to the Second Law, the book of Deuteronomy serves as a refresher to anyone who may have forgotten one of God’s laws. Understanding the shortcomings of human beings, God’s plan was to write out in plain sight to overcome the reality of out of sight out of mind.

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord [the only Lord]. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with your entire being and with all your might. And these words which I am commanding you this day shall be [first] in your [own] minds and hearts; [then] Deuteronomy 6:4-6.

In the passage above, the Holy Spirit leads Moses to take the first commandment and write it out in such a way to help people understand how to love an invisible God. This is accomplished by putting everything you have which includes all your heart, soul and mind. Don’t just say follow and keep this commandment, but demonstrate this through action as love flows out of your heart. Part of Jesus’ teaching is that you will know my followers by their love, John 13:34-35.

You shall whet and sharpen them so as to make them penetrate, and teach and impress them diligently upon the [minds and] hearts of your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets (forehead bands) between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates, Deuteronomy 6:7-9.

Unfortunately, we live in a fallen society that seems to become more corrupt and darker with each passing generation, 1 Peter 2:11-12. Despite this reality, writing out inspirational verses of the Bible on a note card or sticky note gives your a reminder of what you should shoot for in life. While perfection is unachievable in our mortal bodies, writing out what is admirable in plain sight, Philippians 4:8-9, provides a daily goal and vision for the future.

by Jay Mankus

Broken Vessels in Desperate Need of Help

The other night I was talking to a former colleague. Our conversation focused on individuals who portray super hero like characteristics in an attempt to be admired and promoted. As some individuals in leadership roles continue this facade, it’s only a matter of time until the truth comes out. While anyone can pretend that everything is dandy, fine and rosy, the reality is every human being is a broken vessel in desperate need of help.

But the firm foundation of (laid by) God stands, sure and unshaken, bearing this seal (inscription): The Lord knows those who are His, and, Let everyone who names [himself by] the name of the Lord give up all iniquity and stand aloof from it. 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also [utensils] of wood and earthenware, and some for honorable and noble [use] and some for menial and ignoble [use], 2 Timothy 2:19-20.

The apostle Paul introduces an analogy to two first century churches. Romans 9:21 compares God as a potter and human beings as clay. If people go an extended time without spiritual water, Psalm 1:2-3, even the strongest will begin to crack as faith dries up. Until individuals are willing to submit to God, you won’t be able to be fashioned and molded into who God wants you to be, 2 Corinthians 4:7. Admitting that you have a problem is the first step toward healing.

So whoever cleanses himself [from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences] will [then himself] be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work, 2 Timothy 2:21.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a democrat or republican, an atheist or a Christian, rich or poor, everyone needs help. You may be embarrassed of your secret addiction, bad habit or emotional state, but help is just a prayer away. You may not know what to say or where to go, but a simple confession is a great place to start, James 5:16. Whenever you take the risk of being real and genuine, God will send someone or a group to help pick up the pieces of your life. This is when the potter takes a lump of clay and transforms it into a wonderful piece of art.

by Jay Mankus

When Faith Does Not Hold Up Under Temptation

Despite how proud you may be, everyone experiences an embarrassing moment in life like Simon Peter. One day you boldly proclaim “I’ll never do that” only to succumb to temptation in the days or weeks that follow. When actions don’t match what you say or believe, hypocrisy leaves a sour taste for those observing this fall from grace. This is one of the consequences of what happens when faith does not hold up under temptation.

Not to allow your minds to be quickly unsettled or disturbed or kept excited or alarmed, whether it be by some [pretended] revelation of [the] Spirit or by word or by letter [alleged to be] from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has [already] arrived and is here. Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come], and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition), 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3.

There are several reasons why faith does not hold up under temptation. Sometimes this is a continuation of a spiritual slide that began out of a period of idleness, similar to what happened to King David in 2 Samuel 11:1-2. Meanwhile, faith is only as strong as your environment, Matthew 13:19-23. If spiritual foundations are weak, Colossians 2:6-7, when storms or trials arrive unexpectedly, faith tends to waver as winds and waves continue to strengthen.

Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands [who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm], take heed lest he fall [into sin]. 13 For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently, 1 Corinthians 10:12-13.

In a historic chapter about past failures made by Jewish leaders in the Old Testament, the apostle Paul wraps up this section with a valuable lesson. According to Paul, every temptation offers a way out. Unfortunately, when the pressure to conform mounts, it’s hard to take your eyes off of temporary pleasures. Instead of bowing down to temptation, keep your head up so that you will see the door to escape temptation so that faith will prevail.

by Jay Mankus

Fitness for the Soul

Prior to the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, there were 41,370 fitness centers in the United States. Depending upon where you live, most of these local gyms are in walking distance or less than 10 miles from where your reside. Whether you prefer exercise bicycles, treadmills or lifting weights, if you want to get in shape prices often range from $10-20 per month. If you need a friend to hold you accountable, most facilities often a special rate for guests. If you can’t afford this, there are always local parks with fitness trails with detailed instructions to follow for you to remain fit.

For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

In his first letter to a teenager pastor, the apostle Paul wanted Timothy to not get caught up in physical fitness. While exercise is needed to stay in shape, fitness for your soul is much more important in the long run. Paul ends his first letter to Timothy with an illustration of what spiritual fitness resembles, 1 Timothy 6:11. The pursuit of happiness is an honorable quest, but fitness for the soul begins by pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Along the way, fight the good fight as you strive to emulate Jesus.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-2.

The author of Hebrews adds a different dimension to fitness for the soul in the passage above. As you work out physically and spiritually, remember the advice passed on to you by former coaches, mentors and teachers. If parts of your life begin to spin out of control, unload everything that is tripping you up or weighing you down. As you do this, keep your eyes focused on the cross since when runners get tired, the first thing that occurs is that heads slouch, forcing eyes to stare at the ground. If you keep your eyes fixed on the finish line, God will give you the vision to maintain fitness for your soul.

by Jay Mankus

Where Presence and Practice Intersect

As a former athlete in multiple sports, practicing in the off-season is key to reaching your full potential. Before the days of travel teams and countless weekend competitions, sports junkies like me would hone their skills in local neighborhoods. Spontaneous pick up games would occur every summer day playing 500, steal the bases, interception, and whiffle ball. On rainy days, boards games, cards, and video games passed the time until the weather cooperated. The more I competed and practiced, the presence of improvement began to shine through.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:6-7.

In a letter to the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul encourages members to practice their faith. While God does show up unannounced from time to time in the form of angels, answered prayers and signs, this doesn’t happen by chance. Peace doesn’t occur simultaneously as soon as you verbalize this word. Rather, peace arrives at the intersection of practice and presence. This develops as faith is exercised through reflection, prayer and thanksgiving. Practicing what you believe gives individuals the opportunity to fail and learn what you need to work on spiritually.

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace (of untroubled, undisturbed well-being) will be with you, Philippians 4:8-9.

According to the apostle Paul, focusing on the positive is a key step toward progressing. As your mind begins to dwell and focus on true and wholesome aspects of life, attitudes and behaviors tend to change for the better. However, Paul doesn’t want Christians to stop here. In addition, keep moving forward by practicing what you have learned from the Bible. The closer you draw near to the Lord, the greater your chances will be to experience the presence of God. Therefore, carry on by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit so that God’s presence appears when faith is practiced.

by Jay Mankus

Living a Mixed Message

While believing in yourself is an important quality to possess, when mixed with superficial wisdom, people tend to change. According to the apostle Paul, a spirit of justification and rationalization often enter human beings, altering their personality. Paul compares this subtle change to a wild animal, unspiritual in nature. If Christians are oblivious to their new attitude, it won’t be long before people of faith begin living out a mixed message.

Who is there among you who is wise and intelligent? Then let him by his noble living show forth his [good] works with the [unobtrusive] humility [which is the proper attribute] of true wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry, selfish ambition) in your hearts, do not pride yourselves on it and thus be in defiance of and false to the Truth, James 3:13-14.

When unobtrusive humility is absent, true wisdom is blocked from unveiling the error of your way. If this trend continues, the door is ajar for the sins of the flesh to enter your life, Galatians 5:18-21. According to the apostle Paul, when you’re not guided by the Holy Spirit, Christians begin to live and send a confusing message. If what you believe isn’t backed up with fruits of the Spirit, faith begins to fall apart and decay.

This [superficial] wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual (animal), even devilish (demoniacal). 16 For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices, James 3:15-16.

The passage above reveals byproducts of a wayward faith. A spirit envy and jealousy led to the downfall of Cain, unable to let go of the root of bitterness and resentment within his heart, Genesis 4:6-9. If you don’t get your way, a spirit of complaining, criticizing and condemning has a tendency to take over. If you want to remove this rebellious nature, pour out your heart to God, James 5:16 so that healing and restoration can begin.

by Jay Mankus

Beyond the Grave

Kerameikos is the name of the the first organized cemetery in the world. The Kerameikos is located in Athens, Greece which dates back to 1200 Before Christ. Visitors will find this cemetery north of the Acropolis. Kerameikos contains two sections divided by the Wall of Themistocles. This final resting place for the dead reminds the living where they will one day end up.

Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [in death], that you may not grieve [for them] as the rest do who have no hope [beyond the grave], 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

The Bible addresses life beyond the grave. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to two different destinations, Matthew 7:13-14. One road leads to destruction while a less traveled path ends near the gates of heaven. If you haven’t made up your mind, the choice is yours, Deuteronomy 30:15-17. God isn’t forcing you to comply, offering free will as a way to exercise your mind, Revelation 3:20.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud cry of summons, with the shout of an archangel, and with the blast of the trumpet of God. And those who have departed this life in Christ will rise first, 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

The apostle Paul puts another spin on life beyond the grave. Paul illustrates what Jesus’ return will look like, Without any sign of formal warning, Jesus will descend from heaven with a loud cry, followed by an angelic shout before the blast from the trumpet of God sounds the alarm. Anyone who put their faith in Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, before dying will rise from cemetery’s around the world first. Once this has been completed, living Christians will vanish from the earth in twinkling of an eye. In order to celebrate life beyond the grave, make sure you choose Jesus, Acts 4:12.

by Jay Mankus

When Satan Hinders and Impedes Your Spiritual Progress

Every day a new set of obstacles arise with the sun. Some of these challenges are recognizable, allowing individuals to easily side step these obstructions. Unfortunately, many of these impediments will come as complete surprises, catching the average citizen off guard and unprepared for what lies ahead for the future. Thus, when the sunsets to end your day, many are left scratching their head mumbling, “how did this happen and why?”

But since we were bereft of you, brethren, for a little while in person, [of course] not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great longing to see you face to face,18 Because it was our will to come to you. [I mean that] I, Paul, again and again [wanted to come], but Satan hindered and impeded us, 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18.

In the first century, the apostle Paul didn’t believe in bad luck. Rather, when strange things started to happen to hinder and impede his most recent missionary journey, Paul blamed Satan. When your spiritual opponent is able to masquerade as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14, faith must be elevated. If the enemy is the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, it time to start fighting back with spiritual weapons, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour, 1 Peter 5:7-8.

One of Jesus’ disciples shares his own recollection of Satan’s attacks. As Peter was about to celebrate a victorious moment in his life, Matthew 16:16-18, a few moments later everything changed. Peter goes from a spiritual hero to being accused of being on Satan’s side, Matthew 16:22-23. When Satan hinders or impedes your spiritual progress, it’s essential that you take your thoughts captive. Just as Jesus used fasting and prayer to overcome temptation, Matthew 4:1-11, be vigilant so you can withstand the next spiritual attack that you’ll face. When you draw near to God, the Devil flees, James 4:7.

by Jay Mankus

You Can’t Quantify Feelings

Science is based upon the collection of data. This information is accumulated through a series of experiments using trial and error to quantify the difference between fact and fiction. Quantify refers to assessing, calculating, evaluating, gauging, sizing up and weighing the results. Theories are developed and formed based upon observing similar outcomes over and over again. One thing that scientists all agree on is that you can’t quantify feelings.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]? 10 I the Lord search the mind, I try the heart, even to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings, Jeremiah 17:9-10.

One Old Testament prophets warns Jews of the dangers of feelings. If human hearts are deceitful, you can’t trust your feelings to be accurate. According to Jeremiah, hearts and minds can play tricks on you, resulting in waves of emotions. Meanwhile, feelings are temporary, often fleeting and fading from one thing to the next. Unless you are in love, feelings tend to change like the weather.

Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses], Hebrews 11:1.

Since you can’t quantify feelings, the author of Hebrews reveals how faith is the vehicle designed to take the place of feelings. Faith serves as assurance like a spiritual heart beat to keep Christians going. When hope is absent or invisible, faith is the foundation for belief in God’s existence. While feelings often end in disappointment, living by faith and not by sight encourages others to do the same. When faith is lived out daily, blind hope can be quantified.

by Jay Mankus

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