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Tag Archives: grace

Spiritual Atrophy

Atrophy refers to the process in which body tissue or organs slowly waste away often due to the degeneration of cells.  Symptoms of atrophy include decay, deterioration, shrinking or withering away until human bodies no longer function as God designed them.  When this condition is diagnosed, aggressive physical therapy is necessary to prevent further complications.  Human beings are not the only things vulnerable to atrophy.

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

Belief, faith and spiritual disciplines can be attacked.  Satan uses compromise, deceit, half-truths and lust to lull Christians into bad habits.  If these patterns persists, it doesn’t take long for a fervent faith to be persuaded into following in the footsteps of the prodigal son.  The apostle Paul uses the term bewitched in a letter to the church at Galatia.  Like atrophy within the human body, initial signs are subtle.  Yet, when minds begin to justify and rationalize wrong actions, spiritual atrophy can become aggressive.

Now before faith came, we were kept in custody under the Law, [perpetually] imprisoned [in preparation] for the faith that was destined to be revealed, 24 with the result that the Law has become our tutor and our disciplinarian to guide us to Christ, so that we may be justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with God] by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under [the control and authority of] a tutor and disciplinarian, Galatians 3:23-25.

A group known as the Judaizers had infiltrated this congregation.  Clinging to religious traditions of Judaism, these zealots began to add conditions to salvation, confusing many of the new converts to faith in Christ.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul explained the original purpose of the law.  However, Jesus came to abolish the law, opening the door for freewill.  Instead of forcing people to believe, God uses freewill to introduce grace, mercy and forgiveness to those who fully repent, turning away from sin and toward God.  This is the cure to spiritual atrophy, taking time each day to pray, thank God and yield your life to Christ alone.  Pursuing godliness is like therapy to overcome the affects of spiritual atrophy.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

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Overriding the Rules of the Past

The first five books of the Old Testament are known as the Torah.  This Hebrew word refers to the law of God as revealed to Moses.  If Adam and Eve didn’t break God’s initial rule introduced in Genesis 2:16-17, this collection of rules and regulations for life on earth would not be necessary.  Unfortunately, Adam’s lack of leadership is to blame, allowing and watching Satan deceive and encourage Eve to take and eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.  This act of original sin led the apostle Paul to write in Romans 5:12-21 that death came through Adam.  This spiritual destruction was redeemed after God sent a second Adam, Jesus who brought salvation to the world as well as overriding the rules of the past.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh (worldliness, manner of life), God made you alive together with Christ, having [freely] forgiven us all our sins, Colossians 2:13.

This concept is explained by the apostle Paul in a letter to the church at Colosse.  This ancient city of Phrygia in Asia Minor provides a vital message for those individuals stuck in modern denominations that focus on legalism rather than grace.  As a former zealot, Paul uses terminology familiar to God fearing Jews to get their attention.  Without a priest sacrificing an animal on your behalf, first century believers in God were powerless to receive forgiveness.  This co-dependency became a tedious practice that Jesus came to abolish.  As a perfect lamb of God, Jesus embraced death on a cross to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin, once and for all.

Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of legal demands [which were in force] against us and which were hostile to us. And this certificate He has set aside and completely removed by nailing it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities [those supernatural forces of evil operating against us], He made a public example of them [exhibiting them as captives in His triumphal procession], having triumphed over them through [he cross, Colossians 2:14-15.

However, this process would not be completed until Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.  The moment Jesus broke free of his grave clothes, the resurrection was finalized.  This symbolic act cancelled the written codes that stood against human beings.  In one magical second in time, Jesus nailed these age old rules to the cross, conquering death and unlocking the spiritual chains of legalism.  May the passages above speak to heart and give hope to your mind.  While the world tends to believe a relationship with God means living by a strict set of rigid regulations, Jesus came to set you free by overriding the rules of the past with free will.

by Jay Mankus

Losing Your Personality

Charisma, magnetism and presence separates one person from the next.  These qualities are built into human beings like DNA.  Some individuals are born with charm, gravitas and hutzpa, naturally flowing out of their souls.  Other people like me rely on confidence to display their personality.  Unfortunately, when things don’t go your way, depression can cause you to forget or lose sight of who you are and the person God wants you to be.

For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught, Proverbs 3:26.

In their song, Back to the Start, Esterlyn writes about this topic.  While I am not sure if losing your personality is possible, you can lose your way.  When and if this occurs, the author of this song encourages anyone struggling to go back to the start.  Conviction, guilt and remorse has a way of eating at souls.  This nagging feeling can suck the life out of those who dwell on the negative.  Thus, before things get any worse, go back to the foot of the cross, where grace, mercy and forgiveness can be found.

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 2 Corinthians 3:5.

As a recovering perfectionist, this is easier said than done.  Those who give into the desire to strive for perfection usually end up disappointed.  Meanwhile, the temptation to be in control entices individuals to place their sole trust in themselves.  This ill-fated decision blinds minds from God’s willingness to provide daily bread for those who believe.  If today’s blog finds you losing touch with your personality, go back to the start so that your confidence will be placed in the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

More than the World Has to Offer

Regardless of how you were raised, there will always be individuals who embrace a prodigal spirit.  Despite countless warnings, some people have to learn the hard way, ignoring the advice of friends, family and mentors.  For those who go down this path, this could be merely a phase in life before common sense takes over.  However, the longer you indulge your flesh, any reckless binge can become bad habits or in extreme cases resulting in addiction.  After cravings, desires and lust have been satisfied, what else does the world have to offer?

A few days later, the younger son gathered together everything [that he had] and traveled to a distant country, and there he wasted his fortune in reckless and immoral living. 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to do without and be in need, Luke 15:13-14.

Every day throughout the world, a modern version of Garden of Eden takes place as demons, evil spirits and sinful minds justify poor decisions.  The whispers of Satan lurk within minds eager to compromise.  Temptation often begins with “Did God really say or is God keeping me from enlightenment?”  From here its only a matter of time before the fall.  Yet, what are these distracted souls missing?  What does Jesus mean by living water?  How does one obtain an abundant life?  Perhaps, opening the pages of the Bible will open your eyes to an alternative life style that provides more than the world has to offer.

Now the serpent was more crafty (subtle, skilled in deceit) than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And]the serpent (Satan) said to the woman, “Can it really be that God has said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees of the garden, except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘You shall not eat from it nor touch it, otherwise you will die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You certainly will not die! For God knows that on the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened [that is, you will have greater awareness], and you will be like God, knowing [the difference between] good and evil,” Genesis 3:1-5.

One day a Pharisee was curious about a popular first century leader.  Afraid his colleagues might find out, Nicodemus approaches Jesus at night, in the cover of darkness.  Following a sarcastic comment, Jesus reveals his purpose for being born, coming to save mankind, John 3:16-17.  This concept was hard to grasp for a religious zealot like Nicodemus.  During a later conversation with a tax collector, Jesus takes this concept one step further, “coming to seek and to save that which was lost,” Luke 19:10.  Regardless of where you have been or what you have done, Jesus offers a clean slate.  While the world tends to keep a record of wrongs, God offers an infinite amount of grace, mercy and forgiveness.  When you come to your senses, your heavenly father is waiting with open arms.

by Jay Mankus

Grace Comes First

After sin entered the world following the fall of Adam and Eve, grace was merely a promise.  To restore that which was lost, God revealed the law to Moses, a series of standards, regulations and rules to abide by.  Animal sacrifices served as a temporary means to obtain forgiveness.  This grueling pattern continued until Jesus arrived early in the first century.  One of the many lessons Jesus taught audiences during his three year ministry is that grace comes first.

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace, Romans 6:14.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul hints about his own internal battle with sin.  Paul chooses the term dominion, referring to the struggle that exists prior to accepting, believing and trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Those who attempt to be good without a personal relationship with God continue to live under the Old Testament law today.  Thus, the concept that grace comes first is still foreign to those without faith.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast, Ephesians 2:8-9.

As the apostle Paul matured spiritually, he began to educate new believers on the power of grace.  As a former religious zealot, Paul’s former attempts to be perfect fell well short of God’s glory.  Thus, Paul became an advocate of grace, encouraging others to avoid basing your salvation on works alone.  Grace is a gift from God, aided by faith in Jesus.  May you come to the same conclusion today that grace comes first.

by Jay Mankus

The Opening Pitch

As baseball’s Spring Training season is winding down this year, opening day is quickly approaching.  The 2018 Major League Baseball Season will open in a more traditional manner.  On Thursday, March 29th, all 30 teams will begin play on the same day.  This is the first time this has occurred since 1968.  One of the pre game festivities for baseball is the ceremonial first pitch.  Teams will invite celebrities, former players or popular people from the area to throw out the opening pitch as cameras recount this special moment.

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make in it rooms (stalls, pens, coops, nests, cages, compartments) and coat it inside and out with pitch (bitumen), Genesis 6:14.

The Bible refers to a different kind of pitch.  Hebrew uses 3 variations of this term. Viz refers to a mineral pitch, similar to modern day asphalt.  The King James Version of the Bible chooses figo: to fix and unite planks.  The final description of pitch in the context of the Bible refers to sealing.  After using gopher wood to built an ark, Noah used pitch as a coating to waterproof the exterior so that this boat would not leak once fully occupied by the animals and his family.  Without this opening pitch, the ark would have sunk.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed, 1 Peter 2:24.

Sometimes Greek and Hebrew words don’t always translate grammatically into English.  Thus, when you break down the structure of this term in a literal sense, pitch is symbolic of atonement.  After original sin separated Adam and Eve from God, the Lord devised a way for mankind to restored, reunited into fellowship with God.  In the passage above, Peter points to Jesus as the atoning sacrifice.  After denying Jesus publically, guilt haunted Peter, struggling to forgive himself for what he had done.  Yet, when Jesus suffered, died and rose again, this opening pitch by God started a whole new ball game, offering human beings a second chance, by grace through faith.  In view of this, make the most of the bats that the Lord provides for you in this life.

by Jay Mankus

 

When the Enemy Perverts Silence

In the Christmas Classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey, who scrambles to locate $8000 which his cousin Billy misplaced at the bank.  Retracing his uncles steps, George runs into Mr. Potter played by Lionel Barrymore at the bank.  Instead of handing George the money that he found wrapped in a newspaper, Potter accuses George of various crimes.  This dilemma leads George to pray for a miracle.  When he receives is a right hook to the face at his local hangout, George turns to suicide as a logical solution to his problems.  When prayers lifted up to God go unanswered, Satan replaces this silence with perverted whispers in the minds of human beings.

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14.

During one of his visits to what is now modern day Greece, the apostle Paul seems to have uncovered some type of demonic activity going on in or around Corinth.  Just like Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies, Satan has a history that does not include the dark side.  Anakin Skywalker followed the force, on pace to become the next Jedi.  Likewise Satan, known as Lucifer was an arch angel, one of God’s most magnificent creations.  At some point, this fact went to his head, wanting to glorify himself.  Despite being kicked out of heaven, this ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, didn’t lose his angelic powers.  Thus, Satan is able to disguise himself as a vessel of light.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, 1 Peter 5:8.

If there is a word that best describes the Devil today its relentless.  This demonic entity is always scheming, using lust and temptation as open doors to come into and ruin lives.  Murders aren’t on the rise just because of crime, drugs and hatred.  Rather, when broken, desperate and lost souls continue to experience silence after cries for help, the enemy perverts silence.  According to Isaiah 1:15, God is silent when individuals fail to repent.  Any type of addiction furthers distance between you and God.  If you want to end this silence, follow the blueprint within Isaiah 1:16-17.  As genuine confession and acts of penance follow, God promises grace, forgiveness and healing.  Don’t let the Devil’s deception to continue to ruin lives of loved ones.  Rather, fast, pray and worship the Lord so that evil will be exposed and brought to the light.

by Jay Mankus

 

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