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Tag Archives: freewill

A Case Study in Religion vs. Relationships

Religion is an interest that a pursuer ascribes to as their supreme importance. This pursuit results in a particular system of faith as individuals believe in and worship a personal God or gods. Meanwhile, relationships are the way in which two or more people are connected and behave toward each other. Relationships can be traced back to a common alliance, bond, or connection based upon shared values. Religion tends to focus on teetotalism, a rigid following of a clearly defined set of rules. Depending upon your own personal desire, relationships can be kept at an arms length, drawn closer, or become intimate.

For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself, Galatians 5:14.

This case study begins with a first century sect referred to as the Judaizers. These Jewish converts to Christianity did not want to abandon their Old Testament heritage. Instead of focusing on their newly formed relationship with Jesus, the Judaizers overemphasized a strict adherence to Jewish customs. The leaders of this group convinced Gentile members of the Church in Galatia to become circumcised. Instead of following the apostles teaching in Romans 10:9-10, the Judaizers claimed that if you really wanted to be saved, “you need to to adopt Jewish customs and practices found in the Torah.”

But if you bite and devour one another [in partisan strife], be careful that you [and your whole fellowship] are not consumed by one another, Galatians 5:15.

The opposite side of this study is a woman who took relationships to the extreme. Unable to find love in normal relationships, Mary turned to prostitution, selling her body to unfulfilled men. Despite the money Mary made, the void in her heart remained. Instead of developing a physical attraction toward Jesus, a spiritual hunger was conceived. Eager to discover meaning in life, Mary becomes a follower of Jesus, trying to reconcile all the poor decisions of her past. Based upon the actions taken in John 12:3, Mary was closely listening to Jesus’ teaching. Perhaps a sign of contrition, Mary takes an expensive bottle of perform and anoints Jesus’ feet.

But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God), Galatians 5:16.

The passage above offers a solution to souls wrestling with religion verses relationships. While religion provides a sense of direction, relationships offer freewill to choose your level of commitment. According to the apostle Paul, there is an internal tug of war going on within your mind daily. Instead of feeling forced to go to church or behave in a certain manner, walk and live habitually in the Holy Spirit. As Christians begin to develop a permanent meaningful lasting relationship with Jesus, you will want to go to church, pray and read the Bible. When you embrace the freedom Jesus offers, faith replaces the need for religion. Thus, choose the abundant life Jesus promises by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Where is God’s Spirit this Christmas Season?

According to ancient tradition, the Spirit of God hovered over the earth prior to the commencement of creation. This information was passed down from generation to generation orally before Moses was called by God to write the first 5 books of the Old Testament. Throughout the early years, God’s presence drifted from one place to another, causing many to wonder, “where is God’s Spirit in the world today?”

The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters, Genesis 1:2.

Moses compares God’s Spirit to an accompany of blessings, Deuteronomy 28:1-2. The prophet Samuel refers to a special anointing given to David which led him to become King of Israel. From a New Testament point of view, the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-6 ushered in the Holy Spirit to become a greater presence in the lives of human beings. Recognizing Pentecost as a once in a world event, the apostle Paul compares God’s Spirit to a force like momentum which you can follow, Galatians 5:25.

I form the light and create darkness, I make peace [national well-being] and I create [physical] evil (calamity); I am the Lord, Who does all these things, Isaiah 45:7.

In the passage above, another Old Testament prophet claims God’s Spirit allows good and evil to occur. Instead of forcing obedience like a militant leader, God created freewill so that God’s Spirit is only a door away, Revelation 3:20. While false doctrines, prophets and teachings continue to confuse many today, bread crumbs have been left behind in the form of a book, Romans 10:17. The more you open the Bible, Psalm 119:105, the presence of God’s Spirit comes into focus as a light in the darkness of 2020.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Safety Deposit Box

Banks in the United States began offering safekeeping services in the early 1800’s. This form of special deposit coincided with America’s Gold Rush that inspired prospectors to travel west to California. Thus, storing newly discovered gold in banks for security purposes gave birth to safety deposit boxes. To avoid getting robbed, banks became the safest place in town to hold valuable assets.

For as many as are the promises of God, they all find their Yes in Him [Christ]. For this reason we also utter the Amen (so be it) to God through Him [in His Person and by His agency] to the glory of God. 21 But it is God Who confirms and makes us steadfast and establishes us [in joint fellowship] with you in Christ, and has consecrated and anointed us [enduing us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit]; 2 Corinthians 1:20-21.

While writing a first century letter, the apostle Paul refers to a special security deposit. According to Paul, God guarantees this as a fulfillment of His promises in the Bible. Based upon Romans 10:9-11, this seal comes in the form of the Holy Spirit. While modern believers were not present on the Day of Pentecost described in Acts 2, today’s outpouring of God’s Spirit serves as a counselor and guide, John 16:13.

[He has also appropriated and acknowledged us as His by] putting His seal upon us and giving us His [Holy] Spirit in our hearts as the security deposit and guarantee [of the fulfillment of His promise], 2 Corinthians 1:22.

Instead of needing a key to access this safety deposit box, God designed an unique door. There is no knob on God’s side of this door, Revelation 3:20. Rather, the only handle is on our side. God is standing on the other side, knocking on this door, trying to get your attention. Yet, freewill doesn’t force God upon you as individuals have the choice to open or ignore God’s voice. If you haven’t experienced the treasure inside of God’s Safety Deposit Box, it’s only a prayer away, 2 Peter 1:3-7.

by Jay Mankus

Divided from the Will of God

The Bible refers to the concept of God having a plan for your life. From Old Testament prophets who write about future plans, Jeremiah 29:11, to the apostle Paul who suggests you can know God’s will, Romans 12:2, callings occur daily. This might be in the form of a convicted conscience, heart felt desire, some sort of dream or inspirational message. Meanwhile, first century Christians believed that each individual was born with a specific gift, personality or talent, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7. This spiritual gift is directly linked or tied to God’s will for your life. If God is the Potter, Romans 9:20-21, the will of God is an ongoing process as clay is molded and shaped, Philippians 1:6.

And the tempter came and said to Him, If You are God’s Son, command these stones to be made {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, Matthew 4:3-4.

Before beginning his earthly ministry, Jesus withdrew into the wilderness to spiritually prepare himself for this 3 year journey. Understanding the threats He would face, Jesus fasted and prayed to clarify God’s plan like which twelve men to choose to become his disciples. At the conclusion of these preparations, the Devil attempted to separate Jesus from the will of His heavenly father. Jesus had the power to fulfill each request, but what the Devil was asking is outside of God’s will. Each tempting situation was geared toward a specific area of Jesus’ life. Physical hunger, mental acuity, and spiritual obedience. These 3 types of scenarios represent how individuals are tempted daily, aimed at separating human beings from the will of God.

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, On the other hand, it is written also, You shall not tempt, test thoroughly, or try exceedingly the Lord your God, Matthew 4:6-7.

The apostle Paul unlocks the key to overcoming temptation in 1 Corinthians 10:13. When confronted by the father of lies, John 8:44, Jesus kept looking for the way out. To overcome hunger, Jesus relied on the Word of God, quoting a verse from the Torah. To escape a dare which He was able to demonstrate, Jesus uses the Bible to correct the Devil’s misuse of Scripture. After gaining authority over the earth, Ephesians 2:2, the Devil offers this to Jesus. However, this request is directly opposed to the first commandment. Thus, Jesus finds the way out each time, refusing to deviate from God’s plan.

Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory (the splendor, magnificence, preeminence, and excellence) of them. And he said to Him, These things, all taken together, I will give You, if You will prostrate Yourself before me and do homage and worship me. 10 Then Jesus said to him, Begone, Satan! For it has been written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him alone shall you serve.

Every human being has a weakness, sinful tendencies that they have a hard time resisting, Romans 7:15-17. As the ruler of the air, the Devil doesn’t need drones or hidden cameras, he sees and knows our weaknesses. Perhaps, this explains why so many former Christians have abandoned their faith, prodigals who have yet to come to their senses. Each decision you make has a blessing or consequence. Good choices keep you on track, but poor decisions cause you to drift further and further away from God. Freewill gives you the freedom to do whatever you want. However, at what point will you consider God’s calling, plan and will for your life? Whatever you decide, hold on to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Maintaining Consciousness

Consciousness in its simplest form is awareness of internal or external existence.  Infants, children and adolescents rarely think about consciousness, unaware of the intricacies of the human body.  As time takes it’s toll on the life, maintaining consciousness becomes an unavoidable challenge.  Between the rising concerns surrounding mental health and numerous complications with old age, staying alive can be a weekly grind.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 1:13.
Unfortunately, nobody knows the exact day or time of their deaths.  Some may receive inclinations, warning signs or visions, but few people live their lives as if today or tomorrow will be their last.  Thus, maintaining consciousness is in God’s hands.  Unless of course a drunk driver exercises their own freewill to use their vehicle as a tool of death.  One day you could feel great and the next you’re stricken with cancer.  Meanwhile, others show no signals of decay until an aneurysm, heart attack or gun shot wound tragically ends a life.
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect, Matthew 24:44.
While coping with this uncertainty, the Lord desires individuals to exercise a spiritual consciousness.  One of Jesus’ former disciples writes about preparing your mind for action.  This can be executed with a sober mind set fully on the grace of God.  Another disciple devotes an entire chapter on Jesus’ teaching of eschatology, what will happen in the last days.  Until these days arrive, maintaining consciousness is the least that you can do, health permitting.  Draw near to God and God will draw near to you.
by Jay Mankus

A Source of Hope or Poisoned by a Toxic Environment?

The other night I was able to interact with a couple of co-workers that I hadn’t seen for a while. Instead of giving a token “how are you doing” in passing without really listening, I caught these two individuals at a vulnerable moment. Each were coping with issues beyond their control. Thus, I was given the opportunity to be a source of hope or add negative fuel to these fires?

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing, 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, dissatisfied customers typically tell 9 to 15 other people about their experience with some telling 20 or more. This frustration also applies to toxic environments as bitter hearts search for someone to vent their displeasure with. When two co-workers focus solely on the negative aspects of their job, even the optimistic can become poisoned by a toxic work environment.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, Hebrews 3:13.

The author of Hebrews addresses this issue in the passage above. This first century convert to Christianity understood the nature of sin. Temptation lurks daily like the illustration in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 with ears itching to participate in gossip and slander. This behavior results in hardened hearts, deceived by sin. Yet, freewill provides you with a choice to make each day. You can be a source of hope or fall prey to a toxic environment. Choose wisely.

by Jay Mankus

Appointed and Destined

The term appointed refers to a time or place decided on beforehand. Mainstream education often associates appointed with “white privilege,” not fair to those excluded from this process. Yet, this allotted, designated and pre-ordained time or place is chosen by God. When individuals delay, ignore or reject God’s calling, another is selected like David in 1 Samuel 16 to take someone else’s place.

And I asked, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that is appointed and destined for you to do,’ Acts 22:10.

Sometimes this appointing requires assistance from another person or group. When Saul who became the apostle Paul was blinded by bright lights from heaven, an unidentified person led him by his hand to Damascus. God often uses extreme circumstances to awaken souls to obedience. Subsequently, Saul’s blindness persuades him to become open to accepting Jesus as Lord.

But since I could not see because of the [glorious intensity and dazzling] brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus, Acts 22:11.

The phrase destined for greatness doesn’t always amount to success. Freewill gives human beings the ability to accept, reject and wait to act upon the calling of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul was a rare exception, making the most of his faith in Christ. Sure, each generation will have a Billy Graham to carry it’s spiritual torch. Yet, the only way the appointed fulfill their destiny is daily obeying God by resisting temptation.

by Jay Mankus

Freedom, Frustration and Finality

In that day you will not [need to] ask Me about anything. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name [as My representative], He will give you. 24 Until now you have not asked [the Father] for anything in My name; but now ask and keep on asking and you will receive, so that your joy may be full and complete, John 16:23-24.

One of the biblical definitions of freewill is the freedom to use a created will as a moral agent. For example, listen to what Jesus says about prayer in the passage above. Prior to the Holy Spirit, the disciples weren’t able tap into the power of prayer. Jesus makes the assumption that you don’t have because you haven’t asked. Perhaps, the prayer lives of these godly men had become bland, generic and stale, void of any specific requests.

You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your lust goes unfulfilled; so you murder. You are envious and cannot obtain [the object of your envy]; so you fight and battle. You do not have because you do not ask [it of God]. You ask [God for something] and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives [out of selfishness or with an unrighteous agenda], so that [when you get what you want] you may spend it on your [hedonistic] desires, James 4:2-3.

However, there is a catch. When you do offer up prayer requests to God, you may possess impure motives. The earthly brother of Jesus refers to agendas not of God which are denied. Thus, if you treat prayer as a wish list for self-promotion, unanswered prayers will follow. Being rejected by God will result in frustration, especially if you think the content of your prayers are offered up with a sincere heart. The only other logical explanation for unfilled prayers are aspirations, dreams and goals that don’t align with God’s will.

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup [of divine wrath] from Me; yet not My will, but [always] Yours be done,” Luke 22:41-42.

An hour before his betrayal, Jesus cries out to his heavenly father, overcome by anguish and stress. This prayer is mentioned by each of the gospel authors. The interesting aspect of this prayer is that as time passes Jesus moves from freedom to frustration toward finality. Jesus begins by asking, “if it’s possible take this cup, your will from me.” Reflecting upon his words, Jesus alters his request to include “not mine but your will be done.” Before completing his prayer, Jesus accepts his fate, surrendering to God with the words, “thy will be done.” May Jesus’ prayer help you to transition from frustration toward finality by embracing God’s will for your life.

by Jay Mankus

Two Masters One Choice

The Masters of the Universe franchise debuted in 1982.  This creation by Mattel includes toys, animation, film, comics, books, videogames and spin-offs.  The most popular character in this series was He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe.  Like Samson of the Bible, there was no hero who could match the superhuman strength of He-Man.  Yet, in real life, there is someone who will come along that is bigger, faster or stronger than their predecessor.  No matter how gifted you are, at some point you will have to call upon and rely on a higher power.

 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so if your eye is clear [spiritually perceptive], your whole body will be full of light [benefiting from God’s precepts]. 23 But if your eye is bad [spiritually blind], your whole body will be full of darkness [devoid of God’s precepts]. So if the [very] light inside you [your inner self, your heart, your conscience] is darkness, how great and terrible is that darkness! – Matthew 6:22-23

There is another Master who is not a person, but many individuals benefit from the services it provides.  The concept of a master credit card was conceived when several California banks joined together to form Interbank Master Charge.  From 1966 to 1979, Mastercard was branded as the credit card to want and use.  Today, Mastercard is merely a name from the past, bought out by Visa which has carried on its legacy in the credit industry.  When I was a child, the only credit card my parents held was work related, for business expenses only.  In modern times, adults have multiple credit cards, charging away until shocking bills arrive in the mail or online.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money, possessions, fame, status, or whatever is valued more than the Lord], Matthew 6:24.

Typically, when I hear a sermon about money, pastors quote 1 Timothy 6:10, the love of money is the root of all evil.  However, the words of Jesus above refer to a heart issue.  Do you trust God to provide daily bread for your needs in life?  Or are your self reliant, putting all the onus on yourself to make enough money to live a decent life?  While there are different levels of commitment on both sides, Jesus wants to know who are you going to serve.  The Master of the Universe, (the giver of life) or the Mastercard that provides access to the finer things in life.  Although the second choice is tempting, faith, prayer and the Word of God will lead you in the right direction.  Two masters, but freewill enables you to make up your mind.  Choose wisely.

by Jay Mankus

 

Demons Can’t Handle the Truth

There are certain expressions, quotes and sayings that have become synonymous with Hollywood films.  Whether its “show me the money” in Jerry Maguire, “how about them apples” via Good Will Hunting or “you can’t handle the truth” from A Few Good Men, these scenes seem to transcend time.  While these classic lines are proclaimed by fictional characters, one of these phrases is a touchy subject for demons.

You believe that God is one; you do well [to believe that]. The demons also believe [that], and shudder and bristle [in awe-filled terror—they have seen His wrath]! – James 2:19

On the surface, demons are spiritual entities associated with the devil and evil.  According to the Bible, one third of the angels in heaven exercised their freewill, backing Lucifer’s plot to exalt himself.  This coup against God the Father was immediately exposed, resulting in their expulsion from heaven.  Upon falling to earth, these fallen angels have aligned themselves with the devil, aka Satan, formerly the archangel Lucifer.  This former angel of song uses a plethora of sneaky methods to hide that which is true.  Corruption, deceit and lies are sown to delay the inevitable, the wrath of God.

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, “Legion”; because many demons had entered him. 31 They continually begged Him not to command them to go into the abyss, Luke 8:30-31.

While Jesus’ earthly brother explains why demons believe and fear God, a first century doctor goes into further details on this subject.  The Bible refers to the abyss as the regions of hell, a bottomless pit, a place of eternal suffering without ceasing.  This fact serves as a clear and present danger for fallen angels.  Demons can’t handle the truth because hell is their eternal destiny.  From their perspective, the more souls they can drag down with them, the better.  In view of this spiritual reality, test everything you hear with the Bible so that half truths will be exposed and the truth will set you free.

by Jay Mankus

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