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What Am I Supposed to Be?

As a member of Jesus’ inner circle along with Peter and James, John had V.I.P. access. One of the expressions John appears to have picked up from private conversations with Jesus is “conforming to the Father’s will in purpose, thought, and action.” After ending one letter with this phrase, John alludes to the waiting process before God’s will is made clear. As Christians lift up daily concerns to the Lord, one prayer request should focus on what you shall be.

Beloved, we are [even here and] now God’s children; it is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be [hereafter], but we know that when He comes and is manifested, we shall [[b]as God’s children] resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him [c]just as He [really] is, 1 John 3:2.

Shall is one of those termed used in self-fulfilling prophecies. If you tend to be negative, ungodly beliefs will fill your mind with thoughts of failure that often come to fruition. Yet, if you learn to take your thoughts captive by implementing Paul’s advice in 2 Corinthians 10:5, what you shall be improves. Philippians 4:8-9 is a great verse to meditate upon to shift your attention to the positive aspects in life. As your perspective changes, so does the prospect of a brighter future.

If you know (perceive and are sure) that He [Christ] is [absolutely] righteous [conforming to the Father’s will in purpose, thought, and action], you may also know (be sure) that everyone who does righteously [and is therefore in like manner conformed to the divine will] is born (begotten) of Him [[r]God], 1 John 2:29.

Belief in one’s abilities in a step in the right direction. However, John suggests your degree of certainty that Jesus is the Christ is crucial to conforming to God’s will. When doubt or uncertainty creeps into your mind, your conviction and purpose in life will waver. If confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit to improve your life is restored, you will become closer to the person that God wants you to be. In the end, what you shall be is determined by the choices and decisions that you make daily.

by Jay Mankus

As You Draw Near to God

Drawing near to God is one of those topics where you will find numerous how to books. Based upon personal experiences, some authors have broken down drawing near to God with 7 specific steps. Other Christian writers have used the Bible to create a formula for drawing near to God. If these individuals haven’t had success in their attempts to draw near to God, these books wouldn’t exist.

[As you draw near to God] be deeply penitent and grieve, even weep [over your disloyalty]. Let your laughter be turned to grief and your mirth to dejection and heartfelt shame [for your sins]. 10 Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant], James 4:9-10.

The best way I know to figure out how to draw near to God is by examining what Jesus did. According to Mark 1:35, Jesus was an early riser who went for a walk first thing in the morning. Apparently, Jesus was searching for a quiet place without any distractions. Once the ideal spot was found, Jesus fell to his knees and began to pray. Based upon Mark 1:36-39, drawing near to God brought Jesus clarity, focus and, vision about where to go and what to do daily.

Let us all come forward and draw near with true (honest and sincere) hearts in unqualified assurance and absolute conviction engendered by faith (by [b]that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness), having our hearts sprinkled and purified from a guilty (evil) conscience and our bodies cleansed with pure water. 23 So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the [c]hope we cherish and confess and our acknowledgement of it, for He Who promised is reliable (sure) and faithful to His word, Hebrews 10:22-23.

In the passage above, one New Testament author reveals the mindset you should have as you begin to draw near to God. One of Jesus disciples compares God to the Father of light who knows everything that you’ve ever done, 1 John 1:6-8. Therefore, if you want to draw near to God like you never have before, start by confessing and verbalizing your shortcomings and failures. Once you unload all of these burdens like Matthew 11:28-30, healing will come to those who draw near to God, James 5:16.

by Jay Mankus

Above and Beyond the Call

The backdrop of the New Testament takes place during the Roman Empire. Unless you were a Roman citizen, you had to do a little extra to get noticed. Scholarly versions of the verse below refer to a practice of impressment by the Roman law on Jews. Therefore, when Jesus urges listeners of the Sermon on the Mount to go the extra mile, this action serves as a plea to go above and beyond the call.

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two [miles], Matthew 5:41.

As a parents of 2 boys who ran cross country and a girl who does spring track, I haven’t met many teenagers who love to run. There were a few on St. Georges track team that won back to back state titles, but runners appear to be a dying breed. Running is one of those hobbies that you have to work at, requiring discipline, focus, and mental toughness. When asked to run an additional mile, few have the energy to be up for this challenge.

Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. 27 But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

In the passage above, Paul is appealing to athletes and sports fans. As a home of the Isthmian Games, Corinth would host this Track and Field Event every two years. This would run opposite of the ancient Greek Olympic Games. To win at this level of competition requires commitment, dedication, and resolve. The average person is content to do what is asked of them. However, if you want to step up your game, going the extra mile will persuade Christians to go above and beyond the call.

The Impulses of the Flesh

A sudden strong and unreflective urge doesn’t wait for an invitation. Like an itch that doesn’t go away, impulses tend to feed on moments of weakness. Whether this is a compulsive desire to raid your fridge for food in the middle of the night or an urge to buy whatever you see, impulses of the flesh are hard to control or tame. The more you feed these cravings, the hungrier your flesh becomes. Addictions, bad habits and poor decisions are merely byproducts of out of control impulses.

Among these we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh [our behavior governed by our corrupt and sensual nature], obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind [our cravings dictated by our senses and our dark imaginings]. We were then by nature children of [God’s] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation, like the rest of mankind, Ephesians 2:3.

In the lyrics of their song Slow Fade, Casting Crowns eludes to the impulses of the flesh. Using the expression “the second glance,” this opens the door for enticement to consume human souls. One of Jesus’ disciples refers to this as the lust of the eyes in 1 John 2:16. If the eyes are the lamp of the body, Matthew 6:22-23, as soon as eyes convince your mind to act, the impulses of the flesh take over. This may explain the apostle Paul’s confession in Romans 7:19, “I can’t control myself.”

But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). 15 Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death. 16 Do not be misled, my beloved brethren, James 1:14-16.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consumed by the agony of defeat, the apostle Paul does provide a solution in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Like an athlete going into strict training, extinguishing the impulses of the flesh requires complete concentration. The includes discipline, focus, and the will power to regain control of your body. Essentially, you need to exchange the impulses of the flesh with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. This process is made complete by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

How Serious are You?

Serious is defined as demanding careful consideration or application. While a perfectionist will attempt to do everything seriously, most individuals will show various degrees of concern. Those things near and dear to your heart will likely draw more attention. Meanwhile, lesser priorities will tend to receive a more carefree approach. As the Coronavirus continues to spread, this pandemic is forcing individuals to rethink the way that people live their daily lives.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night, Psalm 1:1-2.

Depending upon the circumstance, fear can either be healthy or unhealthy. From a biblical perspective, fear of the Lord separates a novice from a fully devoted Christ follower. While fear is often used in a negative context, fearing God refers to a holy reverence. Thus, developing this mindset is like showing a daily allegiance to Jesus through your actions. Holy fear steers those serious about their faith away from compromising and tempting situations toward obedience. In today’s context, practicing social distancing until COVID-19 fades or dies out completely.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is everyone who fears, reveres, and worships the Lord, who walks in His ways and lives according to His commandments, Psalm 128:1.

According to the Psalmist, fear and worship go hand and hand. While being a serious Christian doesn’t guarantee success, the more you walk in the Lord’s ways, the less likely you will stumble and fall. Anyone who demonstrates a healthy fear of the Lord will tend to purge addiction, bad habits and influences of sin from their life. At the present time, only God knows how long the Coronavirus will last. Yet, those who take this threat seriously, will likely live to see another day and God willing, a prosperous future.

by Jay Mankus

Fighting Off Urges to Be Lazy

Idle, lethargic, languishing, plodding and remiss are words associated with lazy. After a hard week of work or mentality exhausting day of school, laziness is an appealing option. Escaping from the stress that life throws your way seems logical. Losing yourself on your phone, playing Fortnite online or indulging in social media are common hobbies where time is wasted daily. Yet, at what point does rest and relaxation turn into laziness?

I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man lacking understanding and common sense; 31 And, behold, it was all overgrown with thorns, and nettles were covering its surface, and its stone wall was broken down, Proverbs 24:30-31.

Solomon uses an example from his own life to rail against the urge to become lazy. This king isn’t alone as the Bible consistently warns readers against choices, decisions and desires to become inactive. The term work is portrayed in God’s Word as action, progress and production. Any contrary acts are compared with sloths, like giving into fleshly cravings to hit your snooze button over and over again. At these moments in time, you have to fight off urges to be lazy.

When I saw, I considered it well; I looked and received instruction.
33  “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest [and daydream],” 34  Then your poverty will come as a robber, and your want like an armed man, Proverbs 24:32-34.

During stretches of 2019, I have repeatedly given into urges to be lazy. This bad habit normally occurs at the end of my work week. As I collapse into my bed. whispers of justification have persuaded me to listen to my sinful nature. As I have tried to snap out of my spiritual slumber, passages like Hosea 4:6 come to mind. Most translations blame laziness on a lack of knowledge. Another version suggests that people perish for a lack of vision. Well, as I continue this weekly battle, to fight off the urge to be lazy,, I must turn my life around with a vision that aligns with God’s will for my life.

by Jay Mankus

The Nazarite Vow of Abstention

According to current law, the legal minimum drinking age is 21 years old in the United States. Prior to 1986, some states allowed college students to drink legally upon reaching their 18th birthday. However, there are 4 exemptions enabling some to bend the rules. Twenty nine states allow children with a parent’s permission to drink alcohol on private property. Six states don’t require a parent’s consent as long as you are on private property. Ten states serve minors at restaurants with a parent’s consent and certain churches use real alcohol as part of their communion services.

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise, Proverbs 20:1.

If you want to know the truth, if you live in the United States and really want to drink alcohol prior to your 21st birthday, determined teenagers will find a way. However, before anyone reads this and suggests, “if everyone else is doing it, why can’t I?” Well, before you allow this thought to persuade your mind, I want to share a dark period in my own life. During a friend’s wedding in college, I decided to drink. Little did I know that hours later I would be hugging a toilet suffering from alcohol poisoning. If it wasn’t for a member of the wedding party, I probably would have died. Since this event I decided to take the Nazirite vow of abstention.

Paul stayed for a while longer, and then told the brothers and sisters goodbye and sailed for Syria; and he was accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchrea [the southeastern port of Corinth] he had his hair cut, because he was keeping a [Nazirite] vow [of abstention], Acts 18:18.

After doing a little research, Numbers 6:1-21, individuals can make an oath for a certain period of time or can choose to make a vow for life to abstain from alcohol. Based upon the passage above, the apostle Paul made the Nazirite vow of abstention during his second missionary journey. To avoid confusing or causing others to stumble, Paul lived above reproach. While I served as a youth pastor, I too took a similar vow to avoid sending a mixed message. Abstaining from alcohol isn’t for everyone, but when you are fixated on reaching a certain audience, taking the Nazirite vow for a set period of time will enhance your message.

by Jay Mankus

Falling Farther Away

The Freefall is an amusement ride developed by Giovanola. Two generations of this ride were designed and marketed throughout the world by the Swiss company Intamin.  The first series of Freefall rides can be identified by the angled supports at the base of the lift tower.  The second generation were identical, but the tower’s base structure on these variants did not taper outward.  The Freefall ride went out of style near the end of the 1999’s, replaced by new technology such as the Gyro Drop and compressed air tower rides.  What I learned last week is that you don’t have to go to an amusement park to experience falling.

For [it is impossible to restore to repentance] those who have once been enlightened [spiritually] and who have tasted and consciously experienced the heavenly gift and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted and consciously experienced the good word of God and the powers of the age (world) to come, and then have fallen away—it is impossible to bring them back again to repentance, since they again nail the Son of God on the cross [for as far as they are concerned, they are treating the death of Christ as if they were not saved by it], and are holding Him up again to public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

The author of Hebrews suggests that when individuals enter into a personal relationship with God, the Holy Spirit elevates and lifts up your faith.  Spiritual enlightenment gives people access to a heavenly gift, tasting the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  However, if you look back down at your former life, tempted to return, you can expect a great fall.  Modern terminology refers to this as back sliding away from God to indulge in temporary pleasures of the world.  To those who change their course, the passage above compares this behavior to crucifying Jesus on the cross over and over again.  At some point, you have to snap out of this spiritual free fall before its to late.

For if we go on willfully and deliberately sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice [to atone] for our sins [that is, no further offering to anticipate], 27 but a kind of awful and terrifying expectation of [divine] judgment and the fury of a fire and burning wrath which will consume the adversaries [those who put themselves in opposition to God], Hebrews 10:26-27.

Five chapters later, the author of Hebrews unveils the fate of those falling farther away from God.  The imagery above suggests that some people will just barely get into heaven, by the skin of their pants.  Just prior to any spiritual freefall is marked by idleness, a lack of concentration, direction and guidance.  A disciple of Jesus refers to this as lukewarm, losing your love and passion for Jesus.  If believers do not feed and meditate upon the Word of God, it won’t be long before hearts, minds and souls begin to look back, over the edge toward the world.  Jesus compares this behavior to a farmer who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back, Luke 9:62.  If you want to save yourself from anguish, pain and suffering, fix your eyes on Jesus to avoid future free falls, Hebrews 12:1-2.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Waiting for Good Things to Come

Waiting is contrary to human nature.  When you see something that you like or want, the concept of waiting seems pointless.  Yet, as I look back on my on life, there are certain things that I wasn’t ready to possess.  A lack of maturity, given something instead of earning it and forcing the issue are all contributing factors.  Perhaps, waiting is a tool God uses to prepare individuals for the future.

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him, Lamentations 3:25.

When you don’t have the financial means to afford a place to live, food to eat or resources like a vehicle, even atheists may offer up prayers for their current situation to improve.  If there is no one on earth to lean on, its only natural to look up the heavens and hope for better days.  The Bible encourages souls to seek God instead of seeking alternative routes or taking short cuts.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:14

David compares waiting to a spiritual exercise like working out.  Waiting requires a gut check, seeing if you have what it takes to stick it out.  This process involves concentration, focus and a willingness to finish what you start.  Those who receive what they have been waiting for tend to appreciate what they now have.  Therefore, if you want to pursue a noble cause, trust God as you wait for good things to come.

by Jay Mankus

Your Next is Greater Than Your Now

Financial planners seek to guide individuals toward fulfilling their dreams in life.  Depending upon how soon families begin to set aside funds for retirement, this process requirements discipline, focus and numerous sacrifices.  Yet, all these preparations don’t ensure a happy ending.  Thus, its essential that people begin to trust God, believing that your next is greater than your now.

For I want you to know, believers, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel [it is not a human invention, patterned after any human concept]. 12 For indeed I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a [direct] revelation of Jesus Christ.  You have heard of my career and former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to hunt down and persecute the church of God extensively and [with fanatical zeal] tried [my best] to destroy it, Galatians 1:11-13.

During a letter to the church in Galatia, the apostle Paul gives a brief summary of his past, present and desire to follow God’s will in the future.  Paul doesn’t shy away from his ignorant past, blinded by a religious zeal for Judaism.  This obsession led Paul to conspire against the founding of the first century church.  Perhaps, the words of Stephen prior to his persecution and death broke through Saul’s calloused heart.

But when God, who had chosen me and set me apart before I was born, and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles [as the good news—the way of salvation], I did not immediately consult with anyone [for guidance regarding God’s call and His revelation to me]. 17 Nor did I [even] go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia and stayed awhile, and afterward returned once more to Damascus, Galatians 1:15-17.

After being blinded on the road to Damascus, this set forward a chain of events resulting in Paul’s salvation.  The first thing Paul did following his conversion was going home to tell family and friends what God had done for him.  The Bible is silent on how Paul’s Jewish parents responded to and received this news.  Nonetheless, Paul quickly came to the conclusion that your next is greater than your now with Jesus.  Although, this doesn’t ensure a story book ending on earth, but a personal relationship with Jesus Christ does secure an eternal reservation in heaven, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

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