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Is it the Devil or My Own Sinful Desires?

Comedian Flip Wilson popularized the phrase “the devil made me do it,” back in the 1970’s. A few years later the first Stars Wars film introduced the dark side as an alternative excuse for why someone makes a bad decision. While Jesus did battle a real Devil early in the first century, the apostle Paul makes the best argument in Romans 7 and Romans 8 for why people continue to sin and fall short of God’s glory daily.

And the tempter came and said to Him, If You are God’s Son, command these stones to be made [[a]loaves of] bread. But He replied, It has been written, Man shall not live and be upheld and sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. Then the devil took Him into the holy city and placed Him on [b]a turret (pinnacle, [c]gable) of the temple [d]sanctuary. And he said to Him, If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, He will give His angels charge over you, and they will bear you up on their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone. Jesus said to him, [e]On the other hand, it is written also, You shall not tempt, [f]test thoroughly, or [g]try exceedingly the Lord your God, Matthew 4:3-7.

Galatians 5:16-25 highlights the internal struggle that every human being faces. You can follow Jesus by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25. Or you can choose to fulfill any earthly pleasure that you may have by indulging your fleshly desires, Romans 8:5-8. Free will offers everyone daily opportunities to decide for yourself like the archangel Lucifer and 1/3 of the angels in heaven.

We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am a creature of the flesh [carnal, unspiritual], having been sold into slavery under [the control of] sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled, bewildered]. I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe [[b]which my moral instinct condemns]. 16 Now if I do [habitually] what is contrary to my desire, [that means that] I acknowledge and agree that the Law is good (morally excellent) and that I take sides with it. 17 However, it is no longer I who do the deed, but the sin [principle] which is at home in me and has possession of me, Romans 7:14-17.

Jesus’ earthly brother addresses the question: did the Devil make me do it or am I my worst enemy? James 1:13-15 clarifies that God is not to blame. Rather, enticement and lust continue to deceive and lead astray millions of people, especially Christians. Just like Eve in Genesis 3:3-6, a second glance at the Tree of Knowledge hooked her immediately. In Eve’s mind, the decision to sin was conceived. While one of Jesus’ disciples suggests that the Devil does know our weaknesses, 1 Peter 5:8, how you respond to temptation is often based upon your mindset, 1 Corinthians 10:13. Look for the way out of sinning.

by Jay Mankus

The Focal Point

A focal point is the point at which rays or waves meet after reflection or refraction. In the context of ornamental horticulture, a focal point is the center of attention. While the focal point is usually the front door of a house, columns, gardens and statues are architectural features that are also highlighted. From a spiritual perspective, Jesus isn’t merely an accessory, He’s the Centerpiece and Focal Point of Faith.

But they have not all heeded the Gospel; for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed (had faith in) what he has heard from us? 17 So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself), Romans 10:16-17.

My higher education in golf course design never made it past my internship in my final year of college. Since I worked early in the morning, I ended up as an overachiever doing a double internship in youth ministry. Sometimes I wonder why God allows individuals to head down paths in life that end up in dead ends. Perhaps this occurs so that believers refocus their attention on the focal point of faith.

Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude]. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me, Revelation 3:19-20.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is listed above. While certain verses are self explanatory, others require time to reflect upon the spiritual truth hidden within. John received a vision of a door with only one handle. Apparently, God’s side does not have a handle, symbolic of free will given to all human beings. While you can’t physically see God, subtle signs are present daily if you’re paying attention, Romans 1:20. Like the words of Hebrews 12:1-2 that compares life to running a marathon, fix your eyes on Jesus, the focal point of the Christian faith.

by Jay Mankus

The Father of All Light

Exodus 8 reveals an important lesson about light and life. When King Pharaoh could not explain some of the miracles performed by Aaron and Moses, he sent for magicians who were actually able to duplicate the first two. Moses claimed that enchantments and secret arts allowed these magicians to turn water into blood and call forth frogs from the waters to fill the land. Yet, when these magicians were unable to bring forth gnats or mosquitoes, these men came to the conclusion that this was the finger of God, Exodus 8:18-19.

For such men are false apostles [spurious, counterfeits], deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles (special messengers) of Christ (the Messiah). 14 And it is no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light; 15 So it is not surprising if his servants also masquerade as ministers of righteousness. [But] their end will correspond with their deeds, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.

According to the apostle Paul, Satan possessed similar powers in the first century. Apparently, Lucifer was able to retain some of his archangel abilities as Paul describes him as the ruler of the air, Ephesus 2:2. Just like the Egyptian magicians thousands of years ago, some modern leaders continue to masquerade as spurious counterfeits of faith today. Yet, at some point in time these individuals will be exposed as their hidden agendas and motives will be uncovered by the Father of all Light. Nonetheless, free will provides the power hungry with an excuse to see how much they can get away with in the darkness.

Every good gift and every perfect ([d]free, large, full) gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of all [that gives] light, in [the shining of] Whom there can be no variation [rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [as in an eclipse], James 1:17.

When you grow up with a big brother who is perfect, you start to follow him around to find out the secret of his success. Apparently, James likely spied on Jesus while He was praying with His heavenly Father. While he may not have gotten as close as he wanted to hear every word spoken, James came to the conclusion that the Father of Light is what made Jesus who He was. Sharing eyewitness testimony, James wants every first century Christian to know that it is the God of heaven who is the giver of all good things. There is no doubt about it so don’t be deceived by luck, chance or coincidences.

by Jay Mankus

Jesus, Joy, and Generosity

Before I became a Christian, there were several individuals that I met which stood out to me. I couldn’t figure out what it was about these people, but each of them possessed an inner peace. One winter night during my sophomore year of high school, a man in a wheel chair gave the keynote address to an audience full of athletes. By the time Skip Wilkins reached the conclusion of his testimony, I wanted what he had inside of his heart, Jesus.

I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it [b]overflows), John 10:9-10.

Joy isn’t a feeling that comes and goes. Rather, joy is a state of mind that is fueled by the hope of eternal life, 1 John 5:13. Yet, joy isn’t a recognizable attribute in every Christian. Your degree of commitment to the Lord will affect what spiritual fruit if any that is naturally displayed every day. Yet, free will causes many college students to partake in their own prodigal like experiences. Subsequently, until human beings hit rock bottom or when common sense returns, joy will be absent.

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope. 14 Personally I am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge and competent to admonish and counsel and instruct one another also, Romans 15:13-14.

The goal of any Christian is to put everything together so that a personal relationship with Jesus yields joy and generosity. The apostle Paul refers to this in the passage above. When anyone reaches this state, an assurance in God spreads hope to your heart. For those that continue their journey with God, joy and peace comes from a spiritual understanding of God’s promises, Philippians 4:6-7. As you draw near to God, may the love of Jesus result in joy and generosity.

by Jay Mankus

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

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