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Wrestling with Salvation

The origins of wrestling can be traced back to ancient cave drawings. Babylonian and Egyptian wrestlers displayed similar holds known in this present-day sport. This history suggests that wrestling represents one of the oldest forms of combat. Thus, it’s not surprising that one of Israel’s founding fathers wrestles with God throughout one long night. This draw (tie) served as a call for change from a swindler to a contender for God.

And Jacob was left alone, and a Man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 And when [the Man] saw that He did not prevail against [Jacob], He touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with Him. 26 Then He said, Let Me go, for day is breaking. But [Jacob] said, I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing upon me. 27 [The Man] asked him, What is your name? And [in shock of realization, whispering] he said, Jacob [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]! 28 And He said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob [supplanter], but Israel [contender with God]; for you have contended and have power with God and with men and have prevailed, Genesis 32:24-28.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul refers to a spiritual wrestling match. Paul urges members of the Philippians Church to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. In the passage below, the Amplified Version provides a clear explanation for what Paul is talking about. The goal for apostles was to fulfill the Great Commission, Acts 1:8. Rather than become complacent as a Christian, believers should cultivate and carry out God’s will for their lives.

Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, [i]with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ), Philippians 2:12.

If you have lived long enough, you know that some days you have it and some days you don’t. When you don’t have your A game or the energy to succeed, wrestling with salvation is essential. When desire is lacking, use prayer as a crutch to keep on fighting. If your faith starts to slide, hang in there by clinging to the promises of the Bible. Whether you have to wrestle for hours, days, months or years, keep hope alive by working out your weaknesses.

by Jay Mankus

Your Love

Depending upon the Bible that you read, the word love appears 310 times in the original King James Version. As newer translations have been created, anyone who reads the New International Version, love is mentioned 551 times. If you dig deeper, these passages refer to one of five different types of love. The Hebrew word Ahab and four Greek terms: Agapao, Agape, Phileo, and Eros. Each of these express love from either God’s perspective (unconditional), family oriented (brotherly) or selfish (sensual).

And this I pray: that your love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight [that your love may display itself in greater depth of acquaintance and more comprehensive discernment], Philippians 1:9.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul refers to love in action. One of the ways Christians demonstrate love is by praying for other people. While writing a letter to a specific church with fond memories, Paul directs his prayer toward their love. Paul’s prayer focuses on a two fold display of love. First, to develop a greater depth of acquaintance, perhaps seeing other people as God sees and loves them. Finally, to deepen one’s comprehension and discernment of God’s unconditional love.

So that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value [recognizing the highest and the best, and distinguishing the moral differences], and that you may be untainted and pure and unerring and blameless [so that with hearts sincere and certain and unsullied, you may approach] the day of Christ [not stumbling nor causing others to stumble], Philippians 1:10.

As Paul’s letter to Philippi continues, Paul shares his goal for the spiritual growth of these believers. Instead of rambling on and on in prayer, Paul’s mind is laser focused. These expectations set a high bar to follow, but how your love is lived out can change a family, neighborhood or place of work. Following the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, many apostles lived each day as if Jesus was going to return before nightfall. This mindset began to fulfill the Great Commission, Mark 16:15 and transformed the way Christian’s love.

by Jay Mankus

Never Lag in Zeal and Earnest

Zeal demonstrates enthusiasm and great energy while in pursuit of a cause or objective. Meanwhile, earnest refers to intense conviction with sincere intentions. When you put these two terms together, Paul suggests that individuals should do whatever they can to use their God given spiritual gifts daily. During the first century, the goal was to fulfill the great commission, Acts 1:18. Spiritual gifts serve as the vessel, the role that you play in making Jesus’ words a reality.

Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith; Romans 12:6.

In the 2005 film Sky High, young apprentices attended a secret school with the hope of ascertaining their super power. Once revealed, students were divided into one of two groups, superhero or sidekick. The list of spiritual gifts mentioned by the apostle Paul in verses 6-8 play a similar role. Some Christians possess dynamic and supernatural gifts like a superhero. All other believers play minor roles, serving the Lord in less flashy manners.

Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord, Romans 12:11.

The passage above indicates the desired energy level expected by God. Paul recognized the fact that waking up day after day can took an emotional, mental or physical toll on your body. Instead of lagging in zeal or earnest, Christians should be aglow while fanning into flame their spiritual gifts. When your spiritual passion begins to fade, re-fuel by tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit. May this passage from the New Testament encourage you to never lag in zeal or earnest as you serve the Lord daily.

by Jay Mankus

Forbidden by the Holy Spirit

During the Day of Pentecost detailed in Acts 2, a supernatural event enabled first century disciples to speak in tongues.  Initially, eyewitnesses thought the disciples were drunk until foreigners, visitors to Jerusalem, began to hear these men speak in their own native tongue.  According to Acts 2:9, this included Asia Minor, a place Paul and Silas chose to reach during Paul’s second missionary journey.  However, Luke records another strange occurrence in the passage below, the apostles were prohibited to introduce the gospel to Europe.

Now they passed through the territory of Phrygia and Galatia, after being forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in [the west coast province of] Asia Minor, Acts 16:6.

There are a couple of explanations for this region being forbidden by the Holy Spirit.  One Bible Commentary suggests this territory was not a designated Roman province.  As a Roman citizen, the apostle Paul accepted this spiritual push back as a clear sign to wait for another opportunity in the future.  Meanwhile, Acts 1:8 refers to a natural progression for the gospel to spread: Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.  The most logical explanation is that Paul and Silas went out of order, visiting the ends of the earth before reaching every nearby town and village.

And after they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; Acts 16:7.

As modern missionaries continue to fulfill the great commission, Matthew 28:16-20, the Bible warns of regions controlled by demonic powers such as Persia in the book of Daniel.  Those called to enter these dangerous countries and nations face the same risk the Elliott family took as described in the film End of the Spear.  When five missionaries were killed in Ecuador by the Wadani tribe, some would have seen this as a sign to quit.  Yet, this loss of life opened the door members of the Wadani to accept and receive the good news about Jesus Christ.  While there will always be forbidden areas on earth, may God fill you with resolve to fulfill God’s plan for your life.

by Jay Mankus

The Second Pentecost

The Day of Pentecost is referenced in Acts 2:1-13.  This event serves two purposes.  First, to fulfill Jesus’ promise in John 14 to send a Holy Ghost as an advocate, counselor and helper of souls.  Second, this spiritual power is designed to empower disciples to fulfill the Great Commission, Matthew 28:16-20.  This initial day is celebrated every year in churches across the country and throughout the world.  Yet, until recently, I overlooked the second Pentecost.

And Cornelius told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, saying, ‘Send word to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; 14 he will bring a message to you by which you will be saved [and granted eternal life], you and all your household.’ 15 When I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as He did on us at the beginning [at Pentecost], Acts 11:13-15.

The second Pentecost is mentioned in Acts 10:34-48.  Prior to this day, Peter received the same vision four different times.  When this vision of unclean animals stood opposed to the Law of Moses, Peter rejected God’s initial message.  According to Acts 10:13-15, this scene is repeated three more times before Peter finally changes his mind.  When the Holy Spirit tells you to do something completely different from what you have been taught, changing your ways is hard.  Yet, this spiritual tug of war between Peter and God set the stage for a second Pentecost.

Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So, if God gave Gentiles the same gift [equally] as He gave us after we accepted and believed and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ [as Savior], who was I to interfere or stand in God’s way?” – Acts 11:16-17

Peter uses a rhetorical question in the passage above which convinced him step aside to allow the Holy Spirit to move and work.  Unfortunately, one of the reasons why the Holy Spirit is not as visible in the United States as third world nations is spiritual interference.  Modern apostles and disciples are standing in God’s way, blocking the Holy Spirit from being unleashed.  Traces of the sinful nature, stubborn hearts and rebellion from biblical practices are to blame.  Yet, is it possible for a third Pentecost, a modern movement of the Holy Spirit.  The only thing missing is concerts of prayer which fueled America’s last great awakening.  May biblical history serve as a blue print to inspire believers to follow in the footsteps of the church at Antioch, Acts 11:19-21.

by Jay Mankus

$Free Speech?

Twitter made it official today: banning the phrase “illegal aliens.”  Twitter officials believe this expression is a form of hate speech.  This social media giant announced on Thursday, September 13th before noon that anyone who tries to use this language in a tweet will be blocked, shadowed banned or have their account deleted.  After hearing this news update, one has to wonder who is deciding what is acceptable and unacceptable?  What criteria, measuring stick or standard is being applied to determine free speech?

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, Acts 4:29.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution may have something to say against Twitter’s decision.  This document prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or to petition for a governmental redress of grievances.  While Twitter is a private company, future lawsuits by anyone discriminated against could open the door for government regulation of social media sites like a public utility.  Perhaps, this reality caused Twitter to reconsider, reversing their decision Thursday night.

Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance, Acts 28:31.

During the first century, the Roman Emperor Nero began to attack, imprison and persecute Christians.  In the beginning of the book of Acts, a Jewish zealot named Saul oversaw the execution of the apostle Stephen.  Despite the fear of death, the Holy Spirit emboldened these followers of Christ to fulfill the great commission, Matthew 28:16-20.  These saints didn’t have the luxury of freedom of speech.  Rather, early Christians boldly proclaimed the kingdom of heaven, trusting God to protect them from their enemies.  May modern believers learn from their example, having the conviction to share what is on your heart.

by Jay Mankus

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