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Tag Archives: free will

Enter at Your Own Risk

As someone who handles hazardous materials each week, I encounter a wide range of warning signs. Whether it’s an image of a gas mask, a skull and cross bones or radioactivity, these send the message to proceed with caution. Meanwhile, if you have the chance to do a lot of traveling, you’ll see a number of warnings designed to serve as a disclaimer to prevent owners from being liable. Such is the case of doors labeled with “enter at your own risk.”

Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one, James 1:13.

The early brother of Jesus provides the spiritual version of enter at your own risk. The context of the passage above and below is referring to the door leading into temptation. James’ disclaimer comes in the statement above. When you are tempted by someone or something, it isn’t God’s fault as free will gives all humans beings the choice to embrace temptation or flee. Therefore, enter at your own spiritual risk.

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, James 1:14-15.

The final portion of this passage explains what happens while inside temptation. James compares this to a fishing trip. However, instead of using a first century net, the enemy uses bait to lure curious spectators behind the Devil’s Door. The hungrier souls become, the more appealing forbidden fruit becomes. If you decide to enter temptation at your own risk today, beware of fleshly desires, lust and earthly passions that will intensity. Turn back before it’s too late.

by Jay Mankus

Prophetic Intimations

An intimation is the action of making something known, especially in an indirect way. To the visual learner, speaking in parables by using analogies that spoke to a first century audience was effective. Instead of dumbing down his message like a teacher telling everyone the answers, Jesus uses prophetic intimations to make people think. One of the stereotypes assigned to Christians is naive, blindly following an invisible God. Yet, this is far from the truth.

This charge and admonition I commit in trust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with prophetic intimations which I formerly received concerning you, so that inspired and aided by them you may wage the good warfare, 1 Timothy 1:18.

Free will offers everyone the chance to spend their time as they wish. Going to church, reading your Bible or praying isn’t forced by a spiritual drill sergeant. Rather, attending church, going to a Bible Study or worshiping God should be something that Christians want to do. When I was a young Catholic searching to make sense of God, I was eager to find out the truth. The more I read the Bible, Old Testament prophecies began to align, opening my eyes to the Savior of the world.

And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and those [preeminently] sinful? 12 But when Jesus heard it, He replied, Those who are strong and well (healthy) have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy [that is, [i]readiness to help those in trouble] and not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. For I came not to call and invite [to repentance] the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin), Matthew 9:11-13.

During a first century conversation, Jesus target audience comes into focus. The healthy don’t need to doctor, able to survive on their own. However, the sick and sinners all reach a point of desperation. Subsequently, Jesus recruited and trained 12 disciples to become spiritually self-sufficient. The goal was after Jesus fulfilled God’s master plan, these men could carry on his ministry after his ascension into heaven. As Christians strive to live the abundant life, John 10:10, you should want to draw closer and closer to God with each passing day. Seize the time that God gives you on earth.

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

For To Me To Live is…

I may be alone, but my priorities are constantly changing. As my children grow up, I try to make myself available when my work schedule allows. Yet, as seasons change, one activity takes precedent over another. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself in a state of flux, unable to do everything that you want. Nonetheless, how you invest your time will reveal to others what you seek to find life in.

For me to live is Christ [His life in me], and to die is gain [the gain of the glory of eternity], Philippians 1:21.

Priorities often change when you approach a crossroad in life. This fork in the road requires a decision. Whatever you choose will alter your lifestyle. Whether this is caused by an accident, a medical issue or spiritual conviction, sacrifices have to be made. The disciplined will view this as a challenge. The driven will set goals to inspire toward and reach. Yet, the distracted often struggle, unsure where and what to find life in.

If, however, it is to be life in the flesh and I am to live on here, that means fruitful service for me; so I can say nothing as to my personal preference [I cannot choose], 23 But I am hard pressed between the two. My yearning desire is to depart (to be free of this world, to set forth) and be with Christ, for that is far, far better; Philippians 1:22-23.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul reached a point where he stopped caring about what other people thought about his relationship with God. Instead of trying to please others, Jesus became Paul’s main priority. This mindset led Paul to find life in serving Christ. Whenever Paul drifted spiritually, Paul felt dead inside. Thus, the motto “to live is Christ and to die for his faith” was conceived. However, free will gives everyone the choice to accept or reject God. Therefore, it’s up to you to decide where and in what you will find life. Choose wisely, Deuteronomy 30:15-16.

by Jay Mankus

Musical Chairs

I was first introduced to musical chairs in grade school. This group activity was used as an ice breaker, a fun exercise to get to know other students. However, when I entered high school, I was introduced to full contact musical chairs. What started out as a routine game, ended in a scrum for the final empty chair. While playing on an elevated stage in a gym, I bounced off one of my fellow competitors. Before I could regain my balance, I flew off the stage, going into a defensive tuck and roll.

Now therefore, [reverently] fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in truth; put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the [Euphrates] River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord, Joshua 24:14.

Last weekend, I heard an interesting sermon that used three different chairs. As Jentezen Franklin defined chairs labeled conflict, compromise, and commitment, human beings play their own game of musical chairs daily. Depending upon how you exercise free will, you will find yourself in one of these three chairs. Subsequently, the actions, choices, and decisions that you make become part of musical chairs of faith. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that they are actually playing this game.

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, Joshua 24:15.

Those who select the chair of commitment tend to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25. Whenever poor choices are made, convictions influence consciences to get up when the wrong chair is chosen. Meanwhile, the seat called compromise is like playing a game of hot potatoes. Depending upon your emotions, feelings or mood, decisions vary. Thus, carnal and fleshly desires tend to over rule spiritual hunger. The final chair is the least desirable, but takes little effort to sit down. The longer you stay here, the more comfortable you become. As you wake up today, choose commitment by following in the footsteps of Joshua.

by Jay Mankus

Drawn in Diverging Directions

Diverging refers to following a different direction or path. Whenever you make a decision to diverge, you want to become different, going against the flow. In this Progressive Age, those who diverge should be celebrated for being interested in new ideas, findings and opportunities. Unfortunately, backlash from the Cancel Culture Movement is using political correctness, progressive ideology and social justice to shame individuals who deviate from the norm.

My desire is to have you free from all anxiety and distressing care. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord; 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly matters—how he may please his wife—1 Corinthians 7:32-33

The apostle Paul introduces the concept of spiritual divergence in a letter to the church at Corinth. While trying to explain his perspective as a single man, Paul points to friends who were drawn in diverging directions. If you understand the concept of happy wife, happy life, spouses feel compelled to please their soul mates. Based upon Paul’s own encounters with married Christian brothers, devotion to God often slips as wives become a greater priority than the Lord.

And he is drawn in diverging directions [his interests are divided and he is distracted from his devotion to God]. And the unmarried woman or girl is concerned and anxious about the matters of the Lord, how to be wholly separated and set apart in body and spirit; but the married woman has her cares [centered] in earthly affairs—how she may please her husband, 1 Corinthians 7:34.

Whether you are single, married or recently divorced, everyone experiences cycles. Periods where you draw close to God and years when you drift apart. Days. weeks and months when you are disciplined and focused on seizing the moment only to fall back into bad habits, drawn back into diverging directions. This is where maintaining a healthy balance comes into play between work and recreation. As long as free will exists, people will continue to be drawn in diverging directions. As you diverge, make sure that you don’t stray too far from home.

by Jay Mankus

Forming a Complete Picture of God

It’s rare that you see kindness and severity in the same sentence. These opposing terms highlight elements of God’s nature. According to the apostle Paul, you should take note and appreciate both aspects of God’s personality. While God can demonstrate affection, concern and warmth, this is only one side of the picture. When commands, decrees and expectations aren’t met, God’s wrath is displayed through curses, loss and rebukes.

Then note and appreciate the gracious kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s gracious kindness to you—provided you continue in His grace and abide in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off (pruned away), Romans 11:22.

In the second half of the passage above, the apostle Paul adds a spiritual disclaimer. God’s grace and kindness is dependent upon how you exercise your free will. Those who abide in the fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, enjoy and partake in fellowship with God. However, if you indulge your sinful nature, the severity of God can be unleashed upon disobedient souls. When you consider the pros and cons, a complete picture of God comes into view.

[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents]. But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations], 1 John 1:6-7.

The disciple whom Jesus loved uses an analogy to paint his own picture of God’s true nature. Comparing a relationship with God to taking a walk, you have one of two options. According to John, each choice either represents light or darkness. Decisions inspired by the Holy Spirit result in blessings. On the other hand, poor choices influenced by your sinful nature bring spiritual darkness. The more you abide in Jesus, the clearer human minds become, able to envision a complete picture of God.

by Jay Mankus

Buy and Do Not Sell the Truth

In this age of modern technology, you can order almost anything on line. With one click of a mouse, purchases could arrive within an hour in some cities with Amazon Prime. To the impulse shopper, this access can be dangerous, racking up thousands of dollars in credit card bills if you are not careful. Nonetheless, buying and selling is a way of life, the free will of God.

Buy the truth and sell it not; not only that, but also get discernment and judgment, instruction and understanding, Proverbs 23:23.

During his reign as king of Israel, Solomon made countless transactions. When asked by God in a dream to choose between wealth or wisdom, Solomon selected the latter, 1 Kings 3:5. This decision resulted in countless riches, blessed beyond belief by God. Yet, Solomon reached a point in life where he realized truth should never be sold, only purchased.

Yet, O Lord God, You said to me, Buy the field with money and get witnesses, even though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans. 26 Then came the word of the Lord to Jeremiah, saying, 27 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for Me?- Jeremiah 32:25-27

The prophet Jeremiah provides an intriguing prophecy in the passage above. Instead of giving into panic like the Stock Market in recent weeks, Jeremiah urges individuals to buy what others are abandoning. Flexing his spiritual muscles, Jeremiah reminds those willing to listen “is anything too hard for God?” These words serve as a message of hope today for those who fear the Coronavirus pandemic. Whatever the future may bring, buy the truth of the Bible as nothing is impossible with God.

by Jay Mankus

How Bad Do You Want It?

To excel at a high level, many athletes join travel teams at an early age to maximize their full potential. Depending upon an individual’s commitment, desire and overall talent, coaches will push these rising stars to new heights. Parents will continue to fork over thousands of dollars each year with the goal of eventually earning a full college scholarship. The end result often relies on how bad do these student athletes want to compete at the next level.

Teacher, which 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.

From a spiritual perspective, God uses free will to reveal who wants it more. Instead of forcing the earth to comply, God introduced the Ten Commandments to the nation of Israel in Exodus 20. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ opened the door for Gentiles to be welcomed into God’s family. For anyone who wants to excel spiritually, Jesus summarizes a primary goal: love God with all your heart, soul and mind.

Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, 20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

In a letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul adds another element to how bad do you want to draw near to God. Paul suggests that human bodies are on loan from God. Thus, if you want to reach your full potential as a believer, treating your body as a living temple of God is essential. Those who want it more spiritually will separate themselves via fruits of the spirit. Since talk is cheap, time will tell how bad you want to please God?

by Jay Mankus

My Ultimate Appeal

The 2006 film Amazing Grace details the life of William Wilberforce.  Wilberforce was an English politician, philanthropist, and a leader of the movement to stop the Atlantic slave trade.  Despite battling health issues, Wilberforce persisted through initial failed attempts to persuade fellow politicians.  Before his death in 1833, Wilberforce was responsible for steering anti-slave trade legislation through the British parliament.

“The Bible is my ultimate appeal… slavery is contrary to the example and precepts of our body and merciful Redeemer, and of his apostles… Slavery then is a national sin,” Angelina Grimke.

Fourteen years before the Civil War began, a woman from the south felt compelled to make an appeal to Christian women who also lived in the south.  Using the Bible as her main point of reference, Angelina Grimke wrote letters to persuade other believers.  One of these letters is on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.  Excerpts from the quote above can be found within a display on the Bible’s impact on ending slavery.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery, Galatians 5:1.

The apostle Paul makes a similar appeal during the first century.  However, the context of the passage above refers to spiritual slavery.  Some churches, denominations and leaders used fear, legalism and peer pressure to make followers conform to their demands.  A group known as the Judaizers began to infiltrate the church at Galatia.  This sect held on to Jewish rituals, adding circumcision to salvation by forcing members to comply.  This practice goes against free will as God doesn’t force individuals to do anything.  Rather, God gives people the choice to accept or reject Jesus.  Any teaching that strays from this is a form of slavery according to Paul.  Just as Angelina Grimke makes her ultimate appeal, God longs for souls who hunger and thirst for the Bible to avoid falling prey to ungodly beliefs.

by Jay Mankus

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