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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

A Part or Apart?

Any great story teller is able to interweave reality with a past event to impart knowledge. The four gospel authors of the Bible record 42 parables shared by Jesus. While there were probably many more shared during Jesus’ 3 year earthly ministry, each of these stories include a nugget of truth. Depending upon the length of these encounters, singular or multiple truths and wisdom have been left behind for readers to discover and digest.

I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit. You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you]. Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me, John 15:1-4.

One of the most famous stories of the Bible compares God to a gardener. Meanwhile, Jesus is a vine, connected to God with the purpose of bearing fruit. However, there is a catch. If Christians remain in and stay a part of the vine, blessings will occur in the form of spiritual fruit. However, if you choose to live life on your own, apart from God, it’s impossible to bear fruit.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith (your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! – 1 Corinthians 16:13

In a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul puts a new spin on this concept. Instead of using the analogy of a vine, Paul writes about faith. Faith isn’t something that you take on and off like clothes. Rather, faith is designed to be a part of you as your relationship with God grows and matures. Just as Jesus urged believers to abide in Him, Paul reminds the church that faith is a part of your new identity in Christ. Therefore, don’t drift away, apart from God, but make Jesus a part of your daily life.

by Jay Mankus

The Fervor of Faith

During a discussion with a woman at a well in Samaria, the topic of conversation transitions to worship. The woman refers to her descendants who worshiped on this mountain, pointing toward Mount Gerissim. Apparently, first century Jews were legalistic, belittling Samaritans for not going to temple at Jerusalem to worship God. However, Jesus points to a time in the future, following his death and resurrection, when individuals will be able to worship God in any place or time.

God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality), John 4:24.

In the passage below, the apostle Paul builds upon this concept. Whenever individuals enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, an intimacy develops. As faith increases, man’s relationship with God becomes a daily priority. Thus, faith isn’t something that you put back on the shelf and walk away from like a Bible. Rather, faith becomes part of you, growing into a fervor through a higher calling via the Holy Spirit.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith (your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! – 1 Corinthians 16:13

This Samaritan woman mentioned by John, one of Jesus’ disciples, is introduced as a restless individual, searching for answers to life’s questions. This journey led the Samaritan woman to look for love in relationships, leaving one man after another when love disappeared. However, when Jesus talked about living water, a spark was triggered within her soul. Hungry for more, John 4:39 reveals that a fervor for faith was conceived, leading her entire family to faith in Christ. This is the kind of fervor that we all need today.

by Jay Mankus

When God’s People Pray

Jesus told his 12 disciples to “watch and pray” three times. Based upon the context of Matthew 26:41, Mark 13:33, and Mark 14:38, this call to action occurs just prior to Jesus’ betrayal. When Christians don’t watch and pray, a willing spirit is swept aside to indulge earthly desires. Instead of telling the world to wait, few believers ever find their way out of temptation, 1 Corinthians 10:12-13.

While you also cooperate by your prayers for us [helping and laboring together with us]. Thus [the lips of] many persons [turned toward God will eventually] give thanks on our behalf for the grace (the blessing of deliverance) granted us at the request of the many who have prayed, 2 Corinthians 1:11.

In a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul views prayer as a cooperate duty. When you take the time to slow down, observe the environment and ongoing situations, prayer provides spiritual help to those in need. When God’s people pray, the lips of the lost eventually turn back toward God. Based upon the passage above, Paul regularly witnessed answers to prayers as God granted many of his requests.

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 more individuals see answers to their prayers, a sense of pride develops. Prayer isn’t seen as a waste of time babbling to an invisible God. Rather, as the power of prayer exerts holy influence over lost souls, faith is strengthened. If your current prayers aren’t being answered, you are either not praying according to God’s will or doubt is sabotaging the end result. As America enters a crisis of faith, make sure you watch and pray.

by Jay Mankus

A Secret Truth

Mysteries tend to involve something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. Most children begin their lives stress free, trusting in their parents to provide for their needs. Depending upon their degree of maturity, parents tend to shield their young ones from the dangers of this world. Yet, according to the apostle Paul, human beings can not become partakers of eternal salvation based upon their own merit.

But I tell you this, brethren, flesh and blood cannot [become partakers of eternal salvation and] inherit or share in the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable (that which is decaying) inherit or share in the imperishable (the immortal), 1 Corinthians 15:50.

Following this warning to members at the Church of Corinth, Paul transitions toward a special mystery. Apparently, this secret truth was decreed by the counsel of God. This event is linked to the crucifixion of Jesus, allowed to continue despite Jesus’ innocence for a hidden purpose. This secret truth in unveiled at the end of chapter 15 of Paul’s letter. The sting of death was removed through resurrection of Jesus on Easter.

Take notice! I tell you a mystery (a secret truth, an event decreed by the hidden purpose or counsel of God). We shall not all fall asleep [in death], but we shall all be changed (transformed), 1 Corinthians 15:51.

Jesus spoke of this mystery during a late night conversation with a Pharisee, John 3:1-5. The concept of being born again didn’t make sense to Nicodemus despite his vast religious knowledge. After making a sarcastic comment, Nicodemus shuts up, intrigued by the words of John 3:16-17. Based upon the actions and words within John 7:50-52 and John 19:38-42, Nicodemus put his faith and trust in Jesus. To those of you who are still left in the dark, Romans 10:8-11 unlocks this secret truth.

by Jay Mankus

Moving Forward Spiritually

The context of “taking sides” below occurs in the middle of a parable. Jesus tells a story of an individual who seeks to enter a strong man’s house. However, unless you first bind the spiritual entities that protect this house (body), you won’t be able to enter. In other words, if you’re not totally with Jesus, you’re against Him. Subsequently, those who are not moving forward spiritually begin to scatter, no longer imitating the love and life of Jesus.

He who is not with Me [definitely on My side] is against Me, and he who does not [definitely] gather with Me and for My side scatters, Matthew 12:30.

This same concept applies to churches as well. During a visit to the Church at Laodicea, John wasn’t impressed. Sure, there were some good things happening, blessed with wealth. Yet, at some point in time members began to trust in their financial riches instead of God. Just like Pink Floyd’s 1979 hit song, members of the Church at Laodicea had become comfortably numb. When you stop growing spiritually, idleness results in back sliding.

I know your [record of] works and what you are doing; you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth! – Revelation 3:15-16

Forward motion is difficult to maintain when your faith is currently stalled. When individuals remove Bible Study, prayer or worship from their weekly spiritual diet, this situation only gets worse. When picking up the Bible, speaking to God or going to church becomes a chore, a spiritual spark is needed. Until revival ignites a dormant faith, most souls will remain in neutral. May this blog inspire you to jump start your faith with forward motion.

by Jay Mankus

A Shift in Focus

The difference between success and failure can be small. A fraction here or a fraction there often determines the final outcome. From a spiritual focus, those who dwell on their circumstances tend to become overwhelmed by fear. This is the situation in the passage below as Israeli soldiers focused on the size of Goliath, a physical giant compared to everyone else. Meanwhile, a skinny shepherd boy sent by his father to bring food to his older brothers noticed Goliath’s weakness. Not being circumcised meant that Goliath was beatable, not covered or protected by God.

And David said to the men standing by him, What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God? 27 And the [men] told him, Thus shall it be done for the man who kills him. 28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard what he said to the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David and he said, Why did you come here? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and evilness of heart; for you came down that you might see the battle, 1 Samuel 17:26-28.

Fast forwarding to the New Testament, the disciples found themselves in the middle of a storm. Unable to take shelter, the wind and waves battered their boat stuck on the Sea of Galilee. Despite just witnessing the feeding of the 5000, Jesus’ disciples began to fear. Instead of focusing of the God of miracles, these men focused on the current storm surrounding their boat. After spending time in prayer, Jesus took a short cut to Capernaum by walking across this body of water. Disappointed by their lack of faith, Jesus used his supernatural powers to take this boat immediately to shore.

[However] when they had rowed three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and approaching the boat. And they were afraid (terrified). 20 But Jesus said to them, It is I; be not afraid! [I Am; stop being frightened!] 21 Then they were quite willing and glad for Him to come into the boat. And now the boat went at once to the land they had steered toward. [And immediately they reached the shore toward which they had been slowly making their way,] John 6:19-21.

In wake of the Coronavirus, perhaps we all need a refresher course on faith. Hebrews 11:1-6 refers to having the assurance and confidence in an invisible God. Without faith it is impossible to please and satisfy God’s expectations, Matthew 16:24-26. Unfortunately, the moment tides change from blessings to adversity, panic causes many to shift their focus. However, the passage above is a reminder that as soon as you shift your focus from your circumstances toward the God of miracles, help is on the way. May this blog inspire you to shift your focus back toward the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

Misrepresenting God

When you misrepresent someone or something, this usually involves giving a false or misleading account. Whether by action, deeds or words, misrepresentation distorts, perverts and puts a new spin on something. From a spiritual perspective, Christians and or churches often exhibit subtle ways of misrepresenting God. This is displayed through Syncretism which is the  fusion of two or more belief systems, and can be applied to philosophy, politics, and religion. In the Old Testament, Jews began to misrepresent God by adopting and observing pagan gods and practices.

Once more Jesus addressed the crowd. He said, I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the Light which is Life, John 8:12.

There are other examples in Scripture that are much more obvious. The context of the passage above involves a woman caught in the act of adultery. According to Jewish law, this woman must be sentenced to death. The local scribes and Pharisees brought her to Jesus to either test him or simply get his opinion on this matter. Instead of taking the bait, Jesus gets down on one knee, writing with his finger in loose soil. Legend has it that Jesus began to write down transgressions committed by people in the crowd who were about to stone this woman. Bible scholars suggest that Jesus was writing down specific sins, ways that these religious leaders were also misrepresenting God.

We are even discovered to be misrepresenting God, for we testified of Him that He raised Christ, Whom He did not raise in case it is true that the dead are not raised, 1 Corinthians 15:15.

According to the apostle Paul, anyone who denies the resurrection of Jesus also misrepresents God. Prior to this passage, Paul lists several accounts of individuals who met with Jesus after being crucified on a cross. Perhaps, Paul was merely reminding first century believers of the facts. Nearly 2000 years later, atheists and agnostics have cast doubt on Jesus’ resurrection, relying on science rather than faith. However, an entire chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15, is devoted to highlighting the power and significance of Jesus’ resurrection. While it takes time to change, may this blog inspire you to stop misrepresenting God.

by Jay Mankus

Remaining Positive in a World Full of Bad News

I find myself turning the channel quicker and quicker each time I stop by to get a quick news update. My ears have developed a sharp antenna, recognizing intros to the latest hit piece slandering President Trump. As cable news anchors eagerly await comments from their guest panelists, I’m already channel searching, trying to something apolitical to watch. Unfortunately, even sporting events are becoming a haven for politics.

And I say, Perished is my strength and my expectation from the Lord. 19 [O Lord] remember [earnestly] my affliction and my misery, my wandering and my outcast state, the wormwood and the gall. 20 My soul has them continually in remembrance and is bowed down within me, Lamentations 3:18-20.

In the passage above, Lamentations reveals Judah’s pathetic condition following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. This collection of poetic laments flowed out of broken hearts following the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 Before Christ. In the midst of this devastating news, many wore their emotions on their sleeves. Perhaps, the Coronavirus in 2020 serves as a painful reminder of how blessed and good life was prior to this pandemic.

But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: 22 It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. 24 The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him, Lamentations 3:21-24.

While many might want to go back in time to experience handshakes and hugs, public displays of affection will have to wait for now. Yet, within this misery and isolation, God has not changed. Although our circumstances are different, the Lord still offers grace, mercy and loving kindness. Thus, despite living in a world full of bad news, God is my hope and strength. May the biblical promise above give you the faith to carry on.

by Jay Mankus

The Author and Finisher of Faith

The idiom “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” was first recorded in June 1867 in the newspaper Piqua Democrat. The original context read “Don’t judge a book by its cover, see a man by his cloth, as there is often a good deal of solid worth and superior skill underneath a jacket and yaller pants.” According to the apostle Paul, each life is like an open book, ready to fulfill what God has authored for your future. Yet, a lack of faith causes many to fail to complete all that God has prepared for you.

For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live], Ephesians 2:10.

Belief, confidence and faith are crucial ingredients to finishing God’s will for your life, Romans 12:2. Yet, when hope is dashed, shaken or lost, that which was predestined fades away from your dreams. Instead of waking up with eager expectations, defeated souls wrestle to be optimistic. Meanwhile, the concept of seizing the moment is not exercised, put on hold until faith returns. Like a struggling Major League bull pen, you need to find a reliable closer who can finish the game called life.

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 uses strong words to highlight that role that God plays in life. According to the passage above, Jesus writes and finishes what He began. Just as the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, no one takes a direct route from point A to point B. Instead days, weeks, months and years are wasted as individuals exercise their free will. There is a little bit of the prodigal son inside everyone as disobedience delays what God has planned for you and me. If you’re tired of living a mediocre life, it’s time to yield the reigns to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

by Jay Mankus

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