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Overusing the Enjoyments of this Life

The apostle Paul uses the Greek word koʹsmos in a letter to the church at Corinth. When translated into English, this refers to the figure and form of the world. Meanwhile, the book of Galatians goes into further details in what is described as desires of the flesh, Galatians 5:19-21. These natural tendencies begin with sexual immorality and end in full blown lust. Perhaps, this is what Paul means by overusing the enjoyments of this life.

And those who deal with this world [overusing the enjoyments of this life] as though they were not absorbed by it and as if they had no dealings with it. For the outward form of this world (the present world order) is passing away, 1 Corinthians 7:31.

At the beginning of 1 Corinthians 7, Paul mentions a letter sent to him by members of the church inquiring about marriage, relationships and remaining single. This entire chapter is devoted to educating Christians to a biblical world view on these topics as well as including Paul’s own opinion. As a man who felt called to remain single, Paul wasn’t distracted by the enjoyments of life which other men were tempted by and often indulged in.

My desire is to have you free from all anxiety and distressing care. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord; 1 Corinthians 7:32.

In the passage above, Paul reveals the secret to his spiritual success, free from the anxiety and distress of relationships. Instead, Paul’s mind is able to clearly focus on the things of the Lord. Like anything in life, the less distracted you are, the easier it is to concentrate on fulfilling God’s will for your life. Colossians 3:1-4 provides advice for overusing temporary pleasures. When hearts are set on eternity, pleasing the Lord is made possible by purging and taking captive distracting thoughts from your mind, 2 Corinthians 10:5-6.

by Jay Mankus

What Rewards will Last?

During the first century, a spirit of favoritism began to spread throughout the church at Corinth. Based upon verses 4-7, some church members were elevating Apollos and Paul to god-like status. To nip this in the butt by preventing others from taking similar stances, Paul explains the role that leaders and preachers play in the spiritual growth of their flock. As individuals share their faith or reach out to the lost, spiritual seeds are sown. However, it is God who waters and makes these seeds grow.

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). 12 But if anyone builds upon the Foundation, whether it be with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 The work of each [one] will become [plainly, openly] known (shown for what it is); for the day [of Christ] will disclose and declare it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test and critically appraise the character and worth of the work each person has done, 1 Corinthians 3:11-13.

Fearful that some had already selfishly taken credit for winning souls to Christ, Paul uses an analogy to set people straight about spiritual rewards. Building upon the apostle’s teaching of 1 Peter 1:6-7, Paul refers to the refining process. This test will expose hidden agendas, motives and personal goals. After everything has been uncovered and laid bare, only those rewards built on the foundation of Christ will last. Anything else will become like dust in the wind, quickly vanishing from sight.

If the work which any person has built on this Foundation [any product of his efforts whatever] survives [this test], he will get his reward. 15 But if any person’s work is burned up [under the test], he will suffer the loss [of it all, losing his reward], though he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has passed] through fire, 1 Corinthians 3:14-15.

The above passage appears to parallel Hebrews 10:26-27 with a different focus. While the author of Hebrews 10 blames addiction to sin for just barely getting into heaven, Paul eludes to those who will enter heaven without a reward. To avoid experiencing a spiritual Christmas in heaven without any gifts under the tree, Paul addresses which rewards will last. Just as Galatians 5:16-17 warns Christians about sinful desires, eternal rewards are accumulated by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. Thus, as hearts, minds and souls look upward, these heavenly treasures will survive.

by Jay Mankus

The Finality of Hell

Prior to sharing the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Jesus is having a heated discussion with religious leaders about the Law. According to Luke, Jesus goes from a debate over wealth to what defines adultery. When you put two and two together, Jesus tells this story to convict the hearts of any Pharisee who was willing to listen. The purpose of this parable is meant to serve as a warning to the spiritually proud about the finality of hell.

And in Hades (the realm of the dead), being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried out and said, Father Abraham, have pity and mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Child, remember that you in your lifetime fully received [what is due you in] comforts and delights, and Lazarus in like manner the discomforts and distresses; but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish, Luke 16:23-25.

Jesus clearly states that there will be no second chances following death. I guess the only exception would be those individuals who have testified about having a near death experience. The medical world refers to these miracles as the Lazarus Syndrome, pronounced dead only to come back to life. Jesus includes the request from the rich man while in hell to clarify that the Torah and Prophets already serve as a warning to steer souls toward heaven and away from hell.

And [the man] said, Then, father, I beseech you to send him to my father’s house—28 For I have five brothers—so that he may give [solemn] testimony and warn them, lest they too come into this place of torment. 29 But Abraham said, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear and listen to them. 30 But he answered, No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent (change their minds for the better and heartily amend their ways, with abhorrence of their past sins). 31 He said to him, If they do not hear and listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded and convinced and believe [even] if someone should rise from the dead, Luke 16:27-31.

To the uncertain, wanting to make sure that they are on the right path, Jesus leaves behind another clue in Matthew 7:12-14. This is a good way to assess your motives. Do I go with the flow or am I more concerned with pleasing God? Am I seeking temporary pleasures or storing up eternal treasures? Are you bearing spiritual fruit or indulging your sinful nature? These are just a few questions that you must consider. Since there are no second chances after death, may this blog inspire you to choose Christ over self.

by Jay Mankus

Songs that Save Souls

While singing a Christmas carol in church yesterday, a stanza from O Little Town of Bethlehem struck a cord with my soul. After examining the lyrics, I discovered two different versions. Unless you sing the traditional version, the sixth stanza is skipped completely. As the words “Where meek souls will receive Him,” flashed on the overhead screen, my heart was moved.

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, Romans 10:9-10.

Immediately, a rhema, an utterance from God overwhelmed me. Humble and meek hearts are crucial to receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, Romans 10:9-11. If hearts are broken, callous, distracted or worn down, the miracle of Christmas is ignore, lost or missed completely. One of the ways God has changed and transformed my own heart is through Christian music which has touched my soul.

Of David. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! – Psalm 103:1

As I look back on the past three decades, there are some songs that became like a refuge, soothing my soul each time I listened to the lyrics. The first song is When God Ran by Benny Hester. After Hester got divorced, most of his music was removed from Christian bookstores, but this classic song moves me each time I hear it. In college, Feel the Nails by Ray Boltz served as a source of conviction to draw me back to God each time I strayed away.

Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! – Psalm 103:2.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions growing up was attending a Christmas Eve service that ended at midnight. After my father was transferred to Cleveland, my parents started attending a local church where the priest looked just like pictures of Jesus. This Christmas Eve service began at 10:30, singing Christmas carols until 11pm. The final hour was a traditional mass that ended with Joy to the World. As you attend church this Christmas, may God refresh your memory of songs that save souls.

by Jay Mankus

Malicious Accusations

Some of the Psalms in the Bible are like pages out of David’s personal diary. David went from a lonely shepherd boy to a war hero, killing a giant called Goliath. This unlikely rise to greatness incited a spirit of jealousy in those whom David surpassed. Chants by fans of his victorious battles even caused King Saul to become envious of David’s accomplishments. Thus, David quickly gained several enemies who spewed malicious accusations, some warranted and others unwarranted.

Although my father and my mother have forsaken me, yet the Lord will take me up [adopt me as His child]. Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain and even path because of my enemies [those who lie in wait for me], Psalm 27:10-11.

When these words began to eat away at David’s soul, he cried out to the Lord for help. Based upon the passage above, David’s own parents turned against him for undisclosed reasons. When you examine Samuel’s visit to Jesse in 1 Samuel 16, it appears that David’s oldest brother Eliab was the apple of his parents’ eyes. David was an after thought, not even invited to this special meeting. Yet, at some point, David’s fame and popularity created a rift or David’s parents were embarrassed by some of his ill-advised decisions.

Give me not up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen up against me; they breathe out cruelty and violence. [What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living! – Psalm 27:12-13

One of the translations of verse 12 uses malicious accusations in place of cruelty and violence. Perhaps, David became cocky, conceited by his success as a soldier. This unhealthy pattern is played out in 2 Samuel 11 as David has an affair with a soldier’s wife. Instead of confessing his sin publicly, David gave orders for Israel’s army to withdraw, allowing Uriah to die behind enemy lines. While David didn’t like the malicious accusations made against him, his actions made the bed he was forced to lie in. While you can’t control what others say about you, a life devoted to character and integrity can persuade former enemies to change their minds about you.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming Futile Thoughts

Futile is defined as a pointless effort, occurring when individuals are incapable of producing any useful result. Synonyms include fruitless, ineffective, of no use, vain and worthless. After reading the passage below, I began to wonder, what causes sharp minds to become dull and futile?

Because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and godless in their thinking [with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations] and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves], Romans 1:21-22.

A letter written to the church of Galatia illuminates how thoughts become futile. The apostle Paul uses the expression clear and obvious when referencing fleshly acts and practices in Galatians 5:19. A list of these ungodly acts follow in verses 20-21. At the end of these traits, Paul suggests that those who live according to their sinful nature will not inherit eternal life, sliding further and further away from God with each indulgence.

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

So if you find yourself in this unfortunate state, how do you reverse this trend? Where do you turn or what can be done to become fruitful and useful once again? At the end of Galatians 5, Paul introduces the concept of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. Instead of gratifying sinful desires, obedience to the fruits of the Holy Spirit brings life. As soon as Christians understand their obligation to God’s Spirit, Romans 8:13, futile thoughts can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t easy, but can be done with prayer and fasting along the way.

by Jay Mankus

The Proximity of Your Relationship

Proximity is nearness in space and time. In the context of a relationship, proximity can include accessibility, closeness, presence or vicinity. Depending upon an individual’s personal desire and feelings, proximity will draw near or withdraw and fade away. As love is conceived within human hearts, couples will marry to ensure that proximity is never an issue again.

And we have the prophetic word [made] firmer still. You will do well to pay close attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dismal (squalid and dark) place, until the day breaks through [the gloom] and the Morning Star rises comes into being) in your hearts. [Yet] first [you must] understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is [a matter] of any personal or private or special interpretation (loosening, solving), 2 Peter 1:19-20.

Moses makes an intriguing correlation about proximity in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 28 suggests that your proximity to God will influence how blessed or cursed your life will be on earth. Those who closely listen to God’s voice by carefully obeying God’s commandments will be rewarded with blessings. These blessings are dependent upon one’s ability to heed God’s calling via the Holy Spirit. This fact should make all believers eager to reside in close proximity with God.

For no prophecy ever originated because some man willed it [to do so—it never came by human impulse], but men spoke from God who were borne along (moved and impelled) by the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:21.

Unfortunately, earthly distractions, human impulses and temporary pleasures cause me to weekly leave God’s presence and wander away from the Lord. The further I drift, replacing my time with God for self fulfilling practices, blessings disappear. Instead, trials in the form of curses often block and prevent me from drawing near to God again. Although no one wants to accept that they are living under a curse, disobedience to the biblical commands, decrees and principles will result in unfortunate events. May this blog inspire you to improve your proximity with God by drawing near the Lord to praise and worship the Great I Am daily.

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

From a Great American Melting Pot to Toxicity Boiling Over

School Hose Rock was an educational campaign geared toward children, kids and teenagers watching cartoons every Saturday morning. The Great American Melting Pot commercial was a successful slogan to embrace immigrants who came to America to start a new life in this country. School House Rock ads were a series of educational songs which ran for 12 years from 1973 to 1985.

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, Proverbs 1:5.

Unfortunately, the introduction of social media in 1997 has gradually turned a great American melting pot into toxic sites boiling over with hatred. Twitter has the become a cesspool of bitterness with other liberal sites not that far behind, allowing false accusations, lies and slander to continue daily. This atmosphere and climate has created a feeding frenzy for anti-conservative beliefs to spread.

An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge, Proverbs 18:15.

Perhaps, the only way to reverse this ominous trend is reminding millennials of the School House Rock campaign. Meanwhile, the public educational system needs to abandon Common Core by returning to an emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic. In addition, institutions of higher education must reverse course from its current protesting and victimology agenda. When classrooms return to places of learning, toxicity can be defeated if hearts and minds are devoted to prayer.

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

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