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The Noble Living Show

The Truman Show debuted in theaters during the summer of 1998. This movie within a movie starred Jim Carrey and Ed Harris. The only real thing in Truman’s life were the products placed into every scene like modern day Informercials. The Bible speaks of a live show that takes place in the homes, streets and workplaces across the country and throughout the world. This is the Noble Living Show.

Who is there among you who is wise and intelligent? Then let him by his noble living show forth his [good] works with the [unobtrusive] humility [which is the proper attribute] of true wisdom, James 3:13.

If you’ve never heard of this, you’re not alone. I was introduced to this concept late last week. According to the earthly brother of Jesus, the star of each episode are Christians who actively live out their faith. Instead of simple knowing what to do, this drama consists of a narrative drive inspired by the Holy Spirit to do good works. Except these characters remain humble unlike many of the modern reality shows.

For this is the will of God, that you should be consecrated (separated and set apart for pure and holy living): that you should abstain and shrink from all sexual vice, That each one of you should know how to [c]possess (control, manage) his own [d]body in consecration (purity, separated from things profane) and honor, Not [to be used] in the passion of lust like the heathen, who are ignorant of the true God and have no knowledge of His will, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5.

The key to this Noble Living Show is the harvest of righteousness, James 3:18. The earthly brother of James shares his own version of the acts of the flesh and traits of the Holy Spirit in James 3:13-18. Anyone who attempts to bypass this or tries to be good on their own strength will not sustain their nobility. Whenever you stumble or fall, take the advice of the apostle Paul in the passage above so that as other people see you in public the presence of Jesus in your heart will shine through.

by Jay Mankus

The Law of Liberty

When I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, the fear of God was quickly ingrained within me. Subsequently, this mindset caused me to refer to the Bible as a long list of Do’s and Don’ts. Religiously following God’s commandments, decrees and precepts gradually wore me out. Yet, once I entered into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11, I began to see the Bible as a means toward liberation.

But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience), James 1:25.

Jesus’ earthly brother refers to the Torah as the law of liberty in the first two chapters of his letter to first century Christians. I wouldn’t be surprised if this concept was shared with him by Jesus. Rather than treat the Bible as a rigorous list of spiritual chores to carry out daily, James began to become liberated. Based upon the passage above, James sounds like Moses during his farewell address in Deuteronomy 30:15-16.

But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment [to express itself], got a hold on me and aroused and stimulated all kinds of forbidden desires (lust, covetousness). For without the Law sin is dead [the sense of it is inactive and a lifeless thing]. Once I was alive, but quite apart from and unconscious of the Law. But when the commandment came, sin lived again and I died (was sentenced by the Law to death). 10 And the very legal ordinance which was designed and intended to bring life actually proved [to mean to me] death, Romans 7:8-10.

The apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter in the Book of Romans to reveal how God’s law eventually liberated his troubled soul. Paul doesn’t hold back, pouring out his heart in frustration about his bleak spiritual condition. No matter how hard Paul tried to keep God’s Commandments, he failed miserably time after time, Romans 7:19-20. Despite Paul’s fallen nature, the final portion of Romans 7:21-25 illustrates how sinners can be liberated by the law of liberty through Christ, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming Spiritual Mood Swings

Mood swings are an abrupt and apparently unaccountable change in an individual’s mood. From time to time, there are logical and rationale reasons to explain these emotional swings. Women may blame that time of the month while men might point to a personal matter. Nonetheless, Christians are called to higher standards in Matthew 5:43-48. According to one of Jesus’ disciples, trusting in the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:3-4 helps overcome spiritual mood swings.

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it. 18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger appeases contention. 19 The way of the sluggard is overgrown with thorns [it pricks, lacerates, and entangles him], but the way of the righteous is plain and raised like a highway, Proverbs 15:17-19.

King Solomon points to a trait passed on to him by his father David, 1 Samuel 16:7. While the world often uses physical appearances and traits as a means to determine greatness, God looks at the heart. Unfortunately, even men and women with a heart for God have inner demons. Some fall prey to anger which can trigger a mood swing with just one word. As someone who had my own anger management issues in the past, learning to control emotional outbursts is no easy matter.

Because of the hope [of experiencing what is] laid up ([d]reserved and waiting) for you in heaven. Of this [hope] you heard in the past in the message of the truth of the Gospel, Which has come to you. Indeed, in the whole world [that Gospel] is bearing fruit and still is growing [e][by its own inherent power], even as it has done among yourselves ever since the day you first heard and came to know and understand the grace of God in truth. [You came to know the grace or undeserved favor of God in reality, deeply and clearly and thoroughly, becoming accurately and intimately acquainted with it,] Colossians 1:5-6.

According to the apostle Paul, grasping God’s grace is the best place to start. Emotional mood swings are usually followed by conviction, guilt, shame or a combination of these three. Once the fireworks of your mood swing have come to an end, there is a brief moment where grace can come to the rescue. If you haven’t reached rock bottom like the prodigal son, common sense may not be regained for days, weeks, months or years. Yet, when the Father’s love shines through, controlling spiritual mood swings is possible.

by Jay Mankus

The First Fruits of a New Year

The concept of biblical first fruits is one of those things I always struggled to visualize. First fruits is introduced in Genesis 4 where two brothers are called by God to give an offering up to the Lord. Since Cain was a farmer and food takes time to grow, he was hesitant to give God the best crops that he just picked. Meanwhile, Abel was a shepherd and offered up his very best sheep to the Lord. Abel gave his first fruit of the year believing God would provide in the future, but Cain held back food, doubting God.

And [we obligate ourselves] to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the first of all the fruit of all trees year by year to the house of the Lord, 36 As well as the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as is written in the Law, and the firstlings of our herds and flocks, to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in [His] house. 37 And we shall bring the first and best of our coarse meal, our contributions, the fruit of all kinds of trees, of new wine, and of oil to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God. And we shall bring the tithes from our ground to the Levites, for they, the Levites, collect the tithes in all our rural towns, Nehemiah 10:35-37.

Nehemiah was living in exile, serving as bodyguard for the king of Persia. One day a messenger sent word to Nehemiah that the wall of Jerusalem had been broken and the gates were on fire. This devastating news stirred Nehemiah’s heart, inspiring an extended period of fasting and prayer. Following this time of mourning, God gave Nehemiah a vision and plan to repair and rebuild the wall. The passage above serves as a celebration to give first fruits to the Lord as the wall surrounding Jerusalem was completed.

And it was of His own [free] will that He gave us birth [as sons] by [His] Word of Truth, so that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures [a sample of what He created to be consecrated to Himself], James 1:18.

The earthly brother of James provides a modern interpretation of first fruits. Instead of offering up a sacrifice similar to that of the Old Testament, our lives should be a demonstration that we’re serve a living God. As you read and study the Bible today, you should be inspired to live out your faith like Jesus, Romans 10:17. Colossians 3:17 and 23 provide a call to action. “Whatever you do, whether in action or words, do this all in the name of Jesus” as a first fruits offering in this new year.

by Jay Mankus

Understand This

As a former high school teacher, understand this is code for get ready to listen. The author of the first Catholic Letter in the New Testament uses understand this as a transitional statement. Following a short section on God as the Giver of All Good Things, James provides practical advice that should be applied daily. This isn’t optional for Christians. Rather, it’s mandatory and necessary to become the person that God wants you to be.

Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry. 20 For man’s anger does not promote the righteousness God [wishes and requires], James 1:19-20.

In the passage above, James gives instructions for becoming a student of God’s Word. When you’re eager to learn, you won’t interrupt the teacher every time a thought pops into your head. Rather, a ready listener is slow to speak as you contemplate and meditate upon what you are hearing. Perhaps, this is what Jesus meant by the expression “don’t just be a hearer of the Word, but be a doer of God’s Word.” Before acting out in anger, students of the Bible are better prepared to avoid sinning while angry.

So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls, James 1:21.

Before you start feeling good about yourself, James calls all Christians to clean up your life. This isn’t just a New Years resolution that will fade away by the Spring. Rather, weeding out any addiction or bad habit from your life will result in subtle changes that will culminate in a spiritual transformation. Yet, this is only possible when the Bible is implanted within thought life and rooted inside your heart. Understand this faith comes from hearing the message and the message is the testimony of Jesus Christ, Romans 10:17.

by Jay Mankus

No Signs of Life

Today’s title is found in the lyrics of a band based in Columbus, Ohio. Send the Beggar’s second album Closer to Complete features a song entitled The Knot. The message is based upon a Christian who blends into their surroundings, afraid to make a public confession of a faith in Jesus. The lyrics include an autopsy performed by an angel, carefully examining this person’s heart. Inside the name Jesus Christ is pulled out, causing confusion which prompts a question: “why was this never shown?”

Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore rule as king in your mortal (short-lived, perishable) bodies, to make you yield to its cravings and be subject to its lusts and evil passions, Romans 6:11-12.

One of the things I struggled with as a new Christian was mixing feelings with faith. My life was like an emotional roller coaster lifting everyone up around me while on my highs. This was quickly replaced by depression as I sucked the joy out of every room that I entered. To be honest, there have been periods where I exhibited no signs of life as a Christian. Like James 1:13-15, my faith was dead inside.

Do not continue offering or yielding your bodily members [and [a]faculties] to sin as instruments (tools) of wickedness. But offer and yield yourselves to God as though you have been raised from the dead to [perpetual] life, and your bodily members [and [b]faculties] to God, presenting them as implements of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not [any longer] exert dominion over you, since now you are not under Law [as slaves], but under grace [as subjects of God’s favor and mercy], Romans 6:13-14.

Apparently, first century Christians in Rome also experienced spiritual dry spells. Depending upon how you lived in the past, breaking any addiction or bad habit can take years. Similar to an internal tug of war, Galatians 5:16-18, ridding your life of sinful desires isn’t easy. King David describes this conviction and pain in Psalm 55:1-4. Whenever you find yourself spiritually dead or dying, on the verge of walking away from your faith, pour out your heart to God in prayer. May confession bring you back to life spiritually in 2022.

by Jay Mankus

A Holy Christmas

When my parents moved to Delaware in 1976, a local Catholic Church about a half mile away was about to break ground. By the 1980’s, we moved from St. Mary Magdalene Church on Concord Pike to Holy Child. This was the church that introduced my family to the concept of a midnight mass. When my father was transferred to Ohio, another local church had an even better tradition. From 10-11 pm, Christmas carols were sung and the church service ended at 12 mid-night Christmas morning.

Who owe their birth neither to [c]bloods nor to the will of the flesh [that of physical impulse] nor to the will of man [that of a natural father], but to God. [They are born of God!] 14 And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth, John 1:13-14.

After years of worshiping Santa and presents, I discovered the reason for this spiritual holiday. When the church bell struck 12 am Christmas morning, the sound of this bell announced the dawn of a new day. Strike after strike, 12 total times, helped me to begin to make room for Jesus as a young adult. As my parents drove home from this annual mass, the words of O Holy Night struck a cord with my soul. These 2 hours each Christmas Eve helped me make the 25th of December a Holy Christmas.

John testified about Him and cried out, This was He of Whom I said, He Who comes after me has priority over me, for He was before me. [He takes rank above me, for He existed before I did. He has advanced before me, because He is my Chief.] 16 For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift, John 1:15-16.

Now as a parent, I haven’t passed on this tradition with my children. Instead we celebrate my sister Cindy’s birthday, play games around a table and watch Elf. Not quite the spiritual experience that I was forced to attend and raised with. Yet, there is time to write a new story. Time to reflect upon the meaning of this day of Emmanuel, God with us starting as an infant who would go on to become a Savior. Therefore, as this holy night arrives, set your heart and mind and things above to worship Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Committed to Becoming a Good Steward

The Bible refers to a steward as a servant who is mindful that Jesus will return at anytime. This individual behaves like a servant who will be held accountable by their boss, colleagues and or superiors. My introduction to this term came through reading the Parable of the Talents. This story shared by Jesus illustrates the sense of urgency that a good steward develops and strives for each day they are alive.

As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits] good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [faithful stewards of the [f]extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor], 1 Peter 4:10.

Former talk show legend Rush Limbaugh coined the phrase “talent on loan from God.” When Rush was diagnosed with stage for cancer back in 2020, he began to open up about his relationship with God. For most of his life, Rush made it a point to avoid using his conservative radio program to proselytize. Yet, as death drew near, Rush revealed a charitable spirit by donating more than 2 million dollars to the Tunnel to Towers foundation.

And he who had received the five talents came and brought him five more, saying, Master, you entrusted to me five talents; see, here I have gained five talents more. 21 His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, [b]admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the [c]blessedness) which your master enjoys, Matthew 25:20-21.

For most of my adult life, I made just enough to scrape by. When I was a Christian High School teacher I often relied on private donations to pay my bills. Yet, in the past few years I have been blessed by God with a good paying job. In lieu of this recent success, my heart is convicting me to become a better steward. Instead of accepting hand outs, it’s my turn to begin secretly giving to the causes I believe in. May the Holy Spirit stir all of us to become a good steward in 2022.

by Jay Mankus

The Just Shall Live by Faith

Just refers to behaving according to what is morally right and fair. Yet, when I think of just, I envision someone justifying why they do what they do. Since I’m not an analytical person, I rarely contemplate the why in my daily life. Perhaps, this is due to a tendency to rely on feelings, what my heart is telling me to do or say. I don’t consider myself to be just. Rather, I follow my convictions with the Holy Spirit the wind beneath my wings as Bette Midler once sang.

But the just shall live by faith [My righteous servant shall live [f]by his conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it]; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him, Hebrews 10:38.

In the passage above, the author of one New Testament book examines how faith regulates the life of a Christian. Or should I say, what an active faith resembles. Beneath the surface, conviction from human consciences was designed by God to keep danger out by staying within the boundaries laid out in the Old Testament. When faith is great, fear shrinks as a holy fervor inspires individuals to pursue things that delight the Lord.

But our way is not that of those who draw back to eternal misery (perdition) and are utterly destroyed, but we are of those who believe [who cleave to and trust in and rely on God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah] and by faith preserve the soul, Hebrews 10:39.

Unfortunately, when human consciences become seared by actively indulging fleshly desires, it’s hard to go back to your life prior to becoming a prodigal. Sin has a way of entertaining you longer than expected, but leaves you feeling empty. This is the misery King David wrote about in Psalm 32:3-4. Before the darkness destroys what you have, respect your relationship with God. If you don’t have one, don’t delay so that you may begin the journey of the just who live by faith, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

For Every Wrong Turn… God’s Spirit Will Guide You Back Home

A first century doctor devotes an entire chapter of the Bible to illustrating the lengths to which God will go to search for lost and wayward souls. Luke 15 is broken down into 3 stories about a lost sheep, lost coin and prodigal son. For every wrong turn you may take in life, there is a Shepherd and Father who is waiting for you to make a U-turn back toward the Lord. Unfortunately, when most people get lost, pride or a stubborn heart keeps you from asking for directions to get back on the right track.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, Psalm 119:105.

Most prodigal stories resemble the 40 year journey of Israel from the Exodus out of Egypt to the promised land. Perhaps human nature is to blame as I’ve done my own wandering away from the Lord. One of my college friends once told me, “stop using Jesus as a crutch.” When times were good, I had a tendency to go off on my own, leaving the Lord behind as my Bible collected dust. Yet, when I broke my ankle playing sand volleyball just before my final year of college, this was a sign to come back to Jesus.

If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. [If by the Holy Spirit [g]we have our life in God, let us go forward [h]walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit,] Galatians 5:25.

Unfortunately, most of the time things aren’t so obvious. This is where the Holy Spirit can intervene, to guide you back home. However, the context of the passage above includes an internal tug of war. Human nature feeds on cravings, desires and impulses that can ravage souls if not contained, Galatians 5:16-18. The apostle Paul provides crucial advice in 1 Corinthians 10:13. The next time you make a wrong turn by ending up in a tempting situation, look for the way out as you listen for the Holy Spirit to guide you back home.

by Jay Mankus

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