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Fighting for Your Life

An average, 56 million individuals will lose their life in 2021. Worldwide, 150,000 people will pass away today. While 100,000 will die from age related causes, the remaining 50,000 have no warning signs of their last day on earth. Although no one wants to be diagnosed with a life threatened illness, at least these unfortunate souls have the opportunity to fight for their lives.

In those days Hezekiah became deadly ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover, 2 Kings 20:1.

During a visit from an Old Testament prophet, King Hezekiah was informed that the end was near. Isaiah is the first to use the expression “set your house in order.” Like a business executive about to retire, Hezekiah was told to begin preparing for his own death by saying goodbye to family and friends. Instead of surrendering to this illness, Hezekiah poured out his heart to God in prayer.

Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, I beseech You, O Lord, [earnestly] remember now how I have walked before You in faithfulness and truth and with a whole heart [entirely devoted to You] and have done what is good in Your sight. And Hezekiah wept bitterly, 2 Kings 20:2-3.

As a former high school Bible teacher, two of my former students succumb to cancer before having a chance to enter the prime of their lives. After wrestling with God in prayer, Hezekiah was one of the lucky ones as the Lord extended his life by another 15 years. However, Hezekiah’s healing was not assured until witnessing his shadow go ten steps backwards. As you read this today, may you follow in the footsteps of the apostle Paul by fighting the good fight, 1 Timothy 6:12, until the Lord takes you home.

by Jay Mankus

Carry the Load

Carrying one another’s burdens was central to the first century church, Acts 2:44-47. Unlike the large cathedrals and megachurches of today, there wasn’t the financial resources available at this time. Thus, homes, existing synagogues, and or open areas near bodies of water were used as places of worship. Whenever a need arose within a body of believers, sacrifices were made so that no one went hungry or without a place to call home.

Brethren, if any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit] should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also. Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it], Galatians 6:1-2.

While home churches and small groups still meet today, poverty is rampant across the country and throughout the world. At some point in the past 2000 years, Christian congregations have forgotten the apostles teaching. Instead of carrying the load of burdens in neighborhoods and communities, many families have gone their own separate ways. Similar to the ways of the Old Testament, American Christians appear to be doing what’s right in their own eyes, Judges 21:25, without carrying the burdens of others.

For if any person thinks himself to be somebody [too important to condescend to shoulder another’s load] when he is nobody [of superiority except in his own estimation], he deceives and deludes and cheats himself. But let every person carefully scrutinize and examine and test his own conduct and his own work. He can then have the personal satisfaction and joy of doing something commendable [in itself alone] without [resorting to] boastful comparison with his neighbor. For every person will have to bear (be equal to understanding and calmly receive) his own [little] load [of oppressive faults], Galatians 6:3-5.

Perhaps the apostle Paul witnessed identical warning signs in the Church at Galatia. At the heart of this problem was a superiority complex passed on by a religious sect known as the Judaizers. Rather than loving neighbors as yourself, the Judaizers forced Gentile Christians to become circumcised. Whenever churches deviate from the apostles teaching, important needs go unrecognized or met. Therefore, if you want to make a difference, start carrying the load of burdens from other believers today, Philippians 2:15-16.

by Jay Mankus

The Devil or Bad Decisions?

Behind the scenes, ungodly beliefs and self fulfilled prophecies lurk within human minds. Whispers of “you’re not good enough, you’ll never amount to anything or everybody else is doing it,” play like a commercial in your thought life. Depending upon how you deal with these distractions, you might blame the Devil for your current ordeal. However, whenever individuals lose confidence, circumstances are prime for bad decisions to be conceived. When common sense is ignored, consequences of poor choices come to the forefront.

And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and depressed and dejected? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it, Genesis 4:6-7.

Take the first child born on earth. Cain followed in his father’s footsteps as a farmer. However, as the curse in Genesis 3:17 commenced, the earth’s soil turned from fertile ground into an arid desert. Subsequently, as his younger brother Abel prospered as a shepherd, envy and jealousy began to consume Cain’s soul. This dire situation caused God to intervene, warning Cain of the sin crouching at the door of his heart. Unfortunately, the Lord was too late as Cain already made up him mind. It was only a matter of time before Cain’s thoughts were acted upon.

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. 14 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 1:13-15.

The earthly brother of Jesus makes sure God is not one to blame for temptation. Rather, those who give into temptation slowly ponder their options before finally taking steps toward the dark side. Whether it’s a second glance, a season of idleness or lustful passions that you can’t hold back any further, when sin is conceived it fills your minds until you finally give into a variety of fantasies. In the end, the only way to escape temptation, 1 Corinthians 10:13, is by purging all reminders of your past sins so that you find the way out that God provides.

by Jay Mankus

Receiving the Holy Spirit

William McDowell – Spirit Break Out (Lyrics) – YouTube

Every generation contains individuals who attempt to reinvent that which has already occurred. Whether as some sort of superiority complex or stubbornness, these confident people refuse to back down regardless of what others believe, proclaim or think. Participating in a debate to expose a specific flawed mindset seems to be a productive use of time. However, when the crowd you are trying to convince doesn’t budge, even persuasive words can’t turn a hardened heart.

O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?] – Galatians 3:1-2

In the middle of the first Century, a group of new Christians formed a sect to appease Jews who didn’t want to let go of following the Torah. According to the apostle Paul, a group known as the Judaizers infiltrated the Church at Galatia. Unwilling to let go of Jewish traditions, these religious leaders began to convince members of the church to add circumcision to salvation. Ingrained within many followers from birth, this new teaching spread quickly throughout the Galatian Church. Subsequently, Jewish Christians began to look down upon and separate from Gentile converts to Christianity. Thus, Paul rebukes leaders in the passage above.

Have you suffered so many things and experienced so much all for nothing (to no purpose)—if it really is to no purpose and in vain? Then does He Who supplies you with His marvelous [Holy] Spirit and works powerfully and miraculously among you do so on [the grounds of your doing] what the Law demands, or because of your believing in and adhering to and trusting in and relying on the message that you heard? – Galatians 3:4-5

In recent years, new debates often related to theology have caused divisions within the 21st century church. One common dispute involves receiving the Holy Spirit. Some denominations claim that this is only accomplished immediately following a believer’s baptisms. Other doctrines refer to a Day of Pentecost moment where individuals experience a similar outpouring of the Holy Spirit. When these two ideologies clash, I’ve witnessed nasty confrontations on both sides. Yet, according to the Bible, Romans 8:1-8 and Romans 10:9-11 highlight how people of faith can receive the Holy Spirit today. May this occur without any hesitation so that lives are transformed by God’s Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

The Long Road Back to God

One of my favorite pastors in college shared an analogy that has stuck with me through life. Referring to the power of sin over human beings, this man believes sin will take you further than you ever intended to go. Meanwhile, sin will remain with you longer than you ever expected to stay. Finally, sin will alter right and wrong, blinding minds with an expanding layer of gray. When you’re too far gone, deceived and spit out by sin, the long road back to God is a humbling journey.

Then three years later, I did go up to Jerusalem to become [personally] acquainted with Cephas (Peter), and remained with him for fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any of the other apostles (the special messengers of Christ) except James the brother of our Lord. 20 Now [note carefully what I am telling you, for it is the truth], I write this as if I were standing before the bar of God; I do not lie, Galatians 1:18-20.

In the passage above, Paul writes out his personal testimony as if standing in front of the Church at Galatia. As a former zealous Pharisee who oversaw the death of Stephen, mere words wasn’t enough to persuade first century apostles of his conversion. Rather, Paul spent 3 years at home, growing, maturing and sharing his faith wherever he went. Despite turning over a new lease on life, many apostles and disciples were skeptical, believing this was a ploy to infiltrate and persecute church leaders. If it wasn’t for Barnabas, who pleaded on Paul’s behalf, the road back to God would have led to a dead end.

Then I went into the districts (countries, regions) of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And so far I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea (the country surrounding Jerusalem), Galatians 1:21-22.

Nearly 2000 years later, everyone has their own prodigal story, Luke 15, disappointing God at one point or another. Depending upon how far you have strayed from the Lord, the long road back won’t be easy. Beside confession and reconciliation, there will be growing pains as you attempt to break away from addictive behaviors and bad habits. Purging yourself from these earthly pleasures may involve some sort of intervention from a Christian brother or sister. Yet, the sooner you make a u-turn back toward God, the quicker the healing process starts. May this Christmas prompt your heart to start the long road back to God.

by Jay Mankus

3G

Cellular technologies began branding 3G in June of 2003. However, it wasn’t until December of 2008 that the first 3G mobile and internet services were launched by Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Limited in India. Unfortunately, this new technology was only available in the cities of Delhi and Mumbai, marketing their product to other metropolitan cities. Eleven years later, 5G has arrived with speeds that range from ~50 Mbit/s to over a gigabit/s.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more [certain], now that we are reconciled, that we shall be saved (daily delivered from sin’s dominion) through His [resurrection] life, Romans 5:10.

If you have a vehicle, you probably have been encouraged to buy an extended warranty. If this seems too expensive, AAA will try to win you over providing a variety of services for an annual fee. Yet, when human beings break down emotionally, physically or spiritually, who do you call? AAA has limits on the numbers of miles for a free tow and cellular services vary depending upon your carrier. If you ever reach this point in life, you do have access to GGG.

Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart believe (adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Christ) and so is justified (declared righteous, acceptable to God), and with the mouth he confesses (declares openly and speaks out freely his faith) and confirms [his] salvation. 11 The Scripture says, No man who believes in Him [who adheres to, relies on, and trusts in Him] will [ever] be put to shame or be disappointed, Romans 10:9-11.

The 3G I am referring to is the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Three personalities in one, each has played a significant role over the course of history on earth. God the Father in the Old Testament, Jesus in the four Gospels and the Holy Spirit following the Day of Pentecost. You don’t need to drive to church to find God. Nor do you need 3G to access this supreme being. Rather, when you realize that there’s only one person who can fill void in your heart, God is waiting for you to let Him into your life, Revelation 3:20. This Christmas is as good a time as ever to do so before the sun sets on your life.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Leave God on the Outside Looking In

One of the greatest lies the Devil perpetuates today is that God is going to punish you, This implanted thought causes some to give up hope, believing that they will never be good enough for God. Subsequently, those who develop and embrace this ungodly belief will keep God at a distance. Rather than accept the biblical fact that God disciplines those who He loves, a barrier is built up over time, keeping God on the outside looking in.

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], Revelation 3:19.

While on the island of Patmos, one of Jesus’ disciples has a vision of what a relationship with God is like. Instead of barging into our rooms to examine what you’ve done wrong, God is patiently waiting to be welcomed inside. Eager to get your attention, God has a way of knocking on certain aspects of your life. Like leaving a trail a bread crumbs, the Lord has a way of providing signals to let you know He’s only a pray away. Nonetheless, Jesus will remain outside in the cold until you let him into your heart, Romans 10:9-10.

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 3:20.

Unfortunately, human timing and God’s timing often clash. When you’re ready to open up and become vulnerable, something immediately interrupts you from God. Meanwhile, you may be busy, consumed by what you are working on, leaving little or no time for a spiritual conversation. Most human beings don’t do this on purpose, but way too many individuals go through life leaving God on the outside looking in. May this blog inspire you to make room in your busy schedule for Jesus this Christmas.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Let Evil Find a Home

While the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contain numerous references to Jesus casting out a demon or demons, there are only 7 accounts of exorcisms in the Bible. One author seems to be intrigued by this spiritual phenomena. As a first century doctor, Luke becomes introspective, unsure of where evil begins and ends. These thoughts likely inspired the passage below.

When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it roams through waterless places in search [of a place] of rest (release, refreshment, ease); and finding none it says, I will go back to my house from which I came. 25 And when it arrives, it finds [the place] swept and put in order and furnished and decorated, Luke 11:24-25.

Trying to walk the line between the physical and spiritual, Luke details what happens in the moments, hours and days following an individual’s independence from an evil spirit. As if giving a prescription to a current patient, Luke summarizes the emotions, feelings and possible symptoms one might experience. Highlighting a worse case scenario, Luke seeks to scare people straight by urging the freed and healed to not let evil find a home within your heart, soul or mind.

And it goes and brings other spirits, seven [of them], more evil than itself, and they enter in, settle down, and dwell there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first, Luke 11:26.

Before allowing his patient (the reader) to leave, Luke lays out what will happen if you don’t listen to his advice. This is where using prayer to form a hedge of protection is essential. If this crucial step is skipped, the door is left ajar, giving evil just enough room to creep into your life. If Luke could come back from the dead, he would likely plead with anyone who would listen, “don’t let evil find a home.”

by Jay Mankus

Keeping the Faith

Faith is derived from the Latin term fides meaning confidence or trust in a person, thing, or concept. Personal beliefs, convictions, and expectations add to someone’s faith. During his closing remarks in a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul brings up an overlooked aspect of faith. Referring to a spiritual element, faith is not only conceived but Christians must remain part of it.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith (your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! – 1 Corinthians 16:13

Perhaps, Paul learned this from one of Jesus’ disciples. In the passage below, the earthly brother of Jesus uses his own personal experience. Apparently, many first century Christian began turning their faith on and off like a light switch. When faith becomes dormant, it’s a sign that you have become disconnected from God. This trend suggests that your heart and mind is being controlled by your flesh, not God’s Spirit, Romans 8:5.

What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day, 16 And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 17 So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead), James 2:14-17.

When the apostle Paul commands followers “to keep the trust and holy fervor,” he is reminding believers that faith and deeds go hand and hand. You can’t have one without the other. Based upon first century historians, James did not believe that his brother Jesus was the Messiah. It wasn’t until the resurrection when James came to faith. Since life on earth is like a marathon, keeping the faith consists of abiding in and acting upon your love for Jesus Christ. May this blog inspire you to keep your faith active.

by Jay Mankus

When a Grumpy Old Man Begins to Take Over

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau starred in the 1993 film Grumpy Old Men. The screenplay was written by Mark Steven Johnson who also wrote the sequel Grumpier Old Men which debuted in theaters two years later. After doing some research, apparently there is such a thing as the Grumpy Old Man Syndrome. According to one source, this condition is a due to a combination of psychological and physiological issues. When the best years of life have passed, men often feel the need to wall themselves off to protect themselves from sadness and despair. Thus, angry outbursts are the direct result of what is going on within a troubled soul.

Cease from anger and forsake wrath; fret not yourself—it tends only to evildoing. For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait and hope and look for the Lord [in the end] shall inherit the earth, Psalm 37:8-9.

In the passage above, David writes about his various encounters with grumpy old men while serving as king of Israel. Age has a way of wearing on individuals, causing some to speak their mind without a filter. As anger, bitterness, and frustration build up deep inside of human hearts, evil is waiting for a trigger to be unleashed. Like a cease fire between two border nations, David calls believers to stop anger before you give the devil of foothold, Ephesians 4:26-27. Unfortunately, many ignore the early symptoms of anger until a co-worker, family member or neighbor experiences the wrath of your emotional outburst.

Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [[against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], 15 That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world, Philippians 2:14-15.

In recent weeks, I find another presence at work in my body, Romans 7:15-16. Perhaps, the apostle Paul sensed a grumpy old spirit taking over his life as well. Anyway, this grumpy and negative attitude has overflowed from within me. When a series of rejections put my future writing aspirations on hold, disappointment is oozing out in the form of chippy comments, glaring eyes, and silently grumbling to myself. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, the apostle Paul provides an anecdote in the passage above. The moment a grumpy old man begins to take over, yield control over to Jesus. As you do, the darkness of angry spirits will be replaced by the light of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

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