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Born to Win

C.S. Lewis defines progress as the process of arriving in his book Mere Christianity. Meanwhile, winning is gaining victory in a contest or competition. If you are a perfectionist like me, you are probably keeping score of your wins and losses daily. However, if life is more like a marathon than a sprint, pacing yourself and participating in strict training is essential for success. If you believe in Romans 8:28-29, then you are born to win.

[But the Lord rebukes Jeremiah’s impatience, saying] If you have raced with men on foot and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? And if [you take to flight] in a land of peace where you feel secure, then what will you do [when you tread the tangled maze of jungle haunted by lions] in the swelling and flooding of the Jordan? – Jeremiah 12:5

If this is your destiny, it’s easy to become overconfident along the way. This complacency often results in poor training habits, becoming out of shape spiritually. The analogy above is designed to illustrate what you can handle and what you can’t. If you aren’t able to be competitive in a race against other men, you won’t have a shot at progressing to the next level. When you’re born to win, just showing up each day won’t get it done.

And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; Hebrews 12:5.

Integrity is doing what’s right when nobody is looking. Therefore, being born to win requires added responsibility. The context of the passage above begins with an image of dead Christians, looking down from heaven, cheering you on as you compete in the race of life. The author of Hebrews encourages readers to keep your eyes on the prize, fixated on the cross of Christ. Just like keeping your head up while running maintains your momentum, keeping your eyes on heaven will secure victory in the end, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

The Canceling of Our Shortcomings

One of the core messages of the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ, is the spiritual reality of God’s grace. Acronyms of grace often describe this as God’s riches at Christ’s expense. God’s activity toward human beings rains down forgiveness, repentance, regeneration, and salvation from heaven. This unmerited favor from God serves as a spiritual do over to those who enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11.

[So that we might be] to the praise and the commendation of His glorious grace (favor and mercy), which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor, Ephesians 1:6-7.

In the beginning of his letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul unravels God’s grace. Grace is lavished upon the children of God in the form of love. Instead of condemning transgressions, the blood Jesus shed as the perfect lamb of God has redeemed guilty sinners. Romans 5:8 clearly describes the spiritual significance of Jesus’ act of love; “But God shows and clearly proves His love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Which He lavished upon us in every kind of wisdom and understanding (practical insight and prudence), Ephesians 1:8.

King David prophesized about this spiritual reality in Psalm 103:12. As far as the east is from the west refers to God’s infinite love. In other words, God’s love is equivalent to infinity. When you add everything together, the canceling of our shortcomings is made complete. Luke 2:10 describes Jesus’ birth as good tidings of great joy. Perhaps Luke was exhibiting forward thinking, knowing that the promised Messiah of the Old Testament would soon cancel our shortcomings.

by Jay Mankus

Obstacles that Block the Power of the Holy Spirit from Shining Through You

The phrase “old self” appears 91 times in the Bible. Meanwhile, taking off the old self occurs 22 times in the New Testament. The “old self” refers to your unregenerate life prior to entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Colossians 3:5-9. In a letter to the Church at Colosse, the apostle Paul calls members of this congregation to put to death their old self. Experiencing the abundant life in Christ, John 10:10, is not possible until previous attitudes, behaviors, and mindsets have been transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency, 20 Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), Galatians 5:19-20.

Unfortunately, the desires of the flesh are opposed to the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:17. These earthly desires create a spiritual barrier that blocks, hinders, and stunts spiritual growth. Similar to Jesus’ analogy of light and darkness in Matthew 6:19-23, if the darkness of your past still lurks and resides within you, how great is this darkness? Revelation 3:15-16 refers to these type of Christians as lukewarm, cooled by an unwillingness to let go of your old self. Symptoms of this condition are listed above and below. If any of these character flaws rise to the surface, it’s time to put to death your old self.

Envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God, Galatians 5:21.

According to the apostle Paul, the only way to break free from addiction, bad habits, and earthly cravings is by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. Until you yield complete control over to God, sinful desires will continue to ravage your soul. A new life in Christ isn’t meant to be discarded after your love for Jesus fades away. Rather, the author of Hebrews refers to this spiritual journey as a marathon, Hebrews 12:1-3, with members from heaven watching and urging you to keep going. Like any race, you may have to stop and walk for a while, but with the Holy Spirit at your back, change is possible if you believe and persevere.

by Jay Mankus

Fearless Before Evil

The Bible refers to evil as any mindset that which is opposed to God and His purposes. While the word evil can refer to anything that causes harm, everything that contradicts the holy nature of God is considered evil in God’s eyes. With or without the moral dimension, evil has a way of infiltrating lives in subtle ways. When evil attaches itself to human lives, individuals will begin to act out in anger, often through emotional outbursts. Unfortunately, when evil behavior is confronted, defense mechanisms activate, forming a wall that can divide and further separate rocky relationships.

Elijah replied, I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, by forsaking the commandments of the Lord and by following the Baals. 19 Therefore send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of [the goddess] Asherah, who eat at [Queen] Jezebel’s table. 20 So Ahab sent to all the Israelites and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, How long will you halt and limp between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him! But if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word, 1 Kings 18:18-21.

As Christians mature in their faith, the goal is to recognize evil with a readiness to stand up to it as a moments notice. One of the greatest examples of this in the Bible occurs when Elijah persuades 950 secular prophets into a spiritual duel. Instead of using weapons, Elijah comes up with a proposal to call fire down from heaven. The winner of this challenge will be the first to have their God bring fire down from. Although no coin flip was used to determine the order, Elijah allows followers of Asherah and Baal to go first. If you read the entire passage, 1 Kings 18:18-29, Elijah is so confident that he begins taunting these unsuccessful prophets.

At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened. 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with knives and lances until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 Midday passed, and they played the part of prophets until the time for offering the evening sacrifice, but there was no voice, no answer, no one who paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, Come near to me. And all the people came near him. And he repaired the [old] altar of the Lord that had been broken down [by Jezebel], 1 Kings 18:27-30.

When these secular prophets finally gave up, Elijah goes to extremes to prove that the God of Abraham is Lord. Instead of appeasing these prophets, Elijah repaired an altar previously smashed by his opponents and prepared an offering to God. To prove a point, Elijah fills the area around his sacrifice with water, knowing what His Lord was about to do. On this day upon Mount Carmel, Elijah stared evil in the face and won. According to eye witnesses of this miracle, God sent fire down from heaven, consumed Elijah’s sacrifice and licked up all of the water in the trench that was dug. As evil continues to ravage cities, communities and states, may Elijah’s testimony inspire readers to be fearless before evil today.

by Jay Mankus

Have You Been Knocked Down??? Perhaps it’s Time to Get Up

Living in South Jersey at the time, I remember my parents taking me to see Rocky I shortly after it debuted in theaters in November of 1976. Despite seeing this film 49 years ago, I still recall how engaged the audience was with Rocky’s character played by Sylvester Stallone. Beside the raucous cheering, total strangers bonded as the fight scene continued until the 15th and final round. Men and women began to cry out, “get up Rocky; get up!” Have you been knocked down in 2020? If so, perhaps it’s time to get up.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

While the Coronavirus has resulted in a living nightmare for countless Americans, the worst year for me was 2012. Before I could enjoying celebrating the start of a new year, I received a phone call on New Year’s Day informing me that my teaching position of 10 years would be terminated at the end of the month. This call was like a punch to the gut, knocking the wind out of my sails. Beside flying to California for Leanne’s uncle’s 80th birthday party, the next 18 months was filled with disappointment, heartbreak and unemployment.

Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds, Hebrews 12:2-3.

At the time, I never thought this trial would end until I landed on my feet at Amazon. If 2020 has left you in the dark, clueless to where to go or what to do, you’re not alone. According to the author of Hebrews, Christians who have passed away are up in heaven cheering you on. Life is compared to a marathon like spectators at the Olympics encouraging tired runners to keep on going until the race is finished. Whatever your current circumstances maybe, don’t let pain keep you down. Rather, get up while there is still time to finish what God has prepared for you to do, Philippians 1:6.

by Jay Mankus

So That Hope Survives

Ambition, aspiration, cravings, dreams, longings and yearnings are all associated with hope. When theses desires begin to slip away, individuals have to fight with determination so that hope survives. Whenever your confidence is shaken by defeat, failure or a loss, hope is like a dim light surrounded by darkness, ready to be snuffed out by unforeseen events.

But we belong to the day; therefore, let us be sober and put on the breastplate (corslet) of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation, 1 Thessalonians 5:8.

In a letter to a community with a troubled pass, Paul reminds this church that Christians are children of the light. Thus, as the Devil continues to bring and drag up skeletons from your past, don’t let doubt creep into your mind. The longer negative thoughts continue to linger, the closer the enemy comes to achieving his goal, John 10:10.

For God has not appointed us to [incur His] wrath [He did not select us to condemn us], but [that we might] obtain [His] salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), 1 Thessalonians 5:9.

The apostle Paul flips the script in the passage above. Instead of always being on defense, Paul takes up the Sword of the Spirit to go on offense, reminding believers of the ultimate prize. God’s end game is salvation, the opportunity to be reunited with Jesus in heaven. Hope is like an exit sign in the distance, the only way to God, John 14:6. When darkness blocks your path from this doorway, hope is what keep souls alive, surviving to live another day.

by Jay Mankus

The Spiritual Dimension

There are 30 passages in the Bible that refer to a spiritual dimension. The most famous occurs in Ephesians 6:12 where the apostle Paul unveils what is out of sight to human eyes. This dimension is transcendence toward something more than what is apparent in the experiences of other dimensions. According to Paul, what lies beneath the surface is an ongoing spiritual battle between powers, rulers and spiritual forces.

Now there was a day when the sons (the angels) of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan (the adversary and accuser) also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, From where did you come? Then Satan answered the Lord, From going to and fro on the earth and from walking up and down on it. And the Lord said to Satan, Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who [reverently] fears God and abstains from and shuns evil [because it is wrong]? Then Satan answered the Lord, Does Job [reverently] fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not put a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have conferred prosperity and happiness upon him in the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has, and he will curse You to Your face, Job 1:6-11.

Although it’s not the first, Job was the first completed book in the Bible. Since chapter 1 references living in the land of dinosaurs, Job likely lived prior to the biblical flood mentioned in Genesis 7. Following a brief introduction, Job is made aware of what lurks out of sight. Whether through prayer or a one on one conversation with God, Job’s spiritual enemy is brought to life. Lucifer is described as a diligent traveler of the earth, seeking to steal, kill and destroy human souls, John 10:10.

But someone will say [to you then], You [say you] have faith, and I have [good] works. Now you show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works [if you can], and I by [good] works [of obedience] will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. So do the demons believe and shudder [in terror and horror such as make a man’s hair stand on end and contract the surface of his skin]! – James 2:18-19

In the middle of the first century, Jesus’ earthly brother writes about demons. Based upon Christian historians, James did not come to faith until after Jesus rose from the dead. While there is no mention of a private conversation with his big brother before ascending into heaven in Acts 1, James was aware of demons. Despite their tricks, demons know the fate that await them, Jude 1:6. While you’re current struggle may not be obvious to you, don’t be surprised if there is a spiritual element to what’s going on in the world today.

by Jay Mankus

When the Perishable Puts on the Imperishable

The expression “Living on Borrowed Time” originated in England during the 17th century. The Old Style Calendar the English followed belonged to April. Thus, it was common for individuals to describe the first eleven days of May as borrowed days. Depending upon your age, you may be living on borrowed time now, but what Jesus did on a cross at Golgotha can alter your future.

And when this perishable puts on the imperishable and this that was capable of dying puts on freedom from death, then shall be fulfilled the Scripture that says, Death is swallowed up (utterly vanquished forever) in and unto victory, 1 Corinthians 15:54.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul describes the spiritual significance of Jesus’ death on the cross. Prior to His crucifixion, Jews were forced to follow Old Testament law and practices to be forgiven. However, Hebrews 4:14-15 describe Jesus as the Great High Priest who became a living sacrifice. After Jesus conquered death by rising 3 days later, the perishable, human bodies, are now able to put on the imperishable, Jesus Christ.

[Thus you were circumcised when] you were buried with Him in [your] baptism, in which you were also raised with Him [to a new life] through [your] faith in the working of God [as displayed] when He raised Him up from the dead. 13 And you who were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh (your sensuality, your sinful carnal nature), [God] brought to life together with [Christ], having [freely] forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 Having cancelled and blotted out and wiped away the handwriting of the note (bond) with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us (hostile to us). This [note with its regulations, decrees, and demands] He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to [His] cross, Colossians 2:12-14.

In a separate letter to the Church at Colosse, the apostle Paul explains in detail how Jesus’ death and resurrection disarmed Jewish law. The passage above highlights Jesus’ spiritual accomplishment. Instead of being forced to live according to the motto, “living on borrowed time,” Jesus opened the door to eternal life. In a private conversation with disciples, Jesus reveals that He is going away to prepare a place for you in heaven, John 14:2-4. When this was completed, the perishable can now put on the imperishable.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Believe the Fake News

Sensationalism is a tool that the print media has used to attract attention, gain recognition or serve as a distraction to steer the headlines in a different direction. By the early 19th century, American newspapers relied on scoops and exposés to increase circulation. The origin of fake news likely began in The New York Sun’s “Great Moon Hoax” of 1835. This breaking news story claimed that there was an alien civilization on the moon, establishing the Sun as a leading and profitable newspaper. Perhaps, this explains why the apostle Paul warned the church at Thessalonica to test everything that they hear, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22.

While they were on their way, behold, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had occurred. 12 And when they [the chief priests] had gathered with the elders and had consulted together, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers, 13 And said, Tell people, His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we were sleeping. 14 And if the governor hears of it, we will appease him and make you safe and free from trouble and care. 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this story has been current among the Jews to the present day, Matthew 28:11-15.

In the middle of the first century AD, Paul was disturbed by another fake news story spread by religious and Roman leaders. This rumor inspired an entire chapter written to the church at Corinth. After soldiers were offered a bribe, Roman officials claimed that there was no resurrection of Jesus. Rather, the disciples came in the middle of the night to steal his body. Yet, Paul cuts through this lie by addressing the eye witnesses, more than 500 individuals who saw Jesus following his death on a cross. In the passage below, Paul reminds his audience that many of these people were still alive.

For I passed on to you first of all what I also had received, that Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for our sins in accordance with [what] the Scriptures [foretold], That He was buried, that He arose on the third day as the Scriptures foretold, And [also] that He appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the Twelve. Then later He showed Himself to more than five hundred brethren at one time, the majority of whom are still alive, but some have fallen asleep [in death]. Afterward He was seen by James, then by all the apostles (the special messengers), And last of all He appeared to me also, as to one prematurely and born dead [no better than an unperfected fetus among living men], 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.

Nearly 2000 years later, atheists, agnostics and revisionist historians continue to revive this fake news story. Using sources such as Gnostic gospels, written well after Christ’s death and resurrection, the search for Jesus’ missing body continues. Most of the shows referencing the Bible aired on the Discovery, History or Learning channels uses naturalistic scholars who believe this fake news story. Just in case you haven’t read Acts 1:9-11, news flash: Jesus ascended into heaven. According to the apostle Paul, without the resurrection there would be no faith. Thus, the next time someone tries to pass on this rumor as fact, don’t believe the fake news.

by Jay Mankus

The Devil and Karl Marx

A decade before writing his Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx wrote the following in a 1837 poem. “Thus Heaven I’ve forfeited, I know it full well. My soul, once true to God, is chosen for Hell.” Based upon Marx’s own words, the evils wrought by his oppressive ideology and theory caused Karl to part ways with God. When you add up all of the total carnage, Marx’s Communism has led to the deaths of over 100 million souls. Perhaps, some where along the way, Karl teamed up with the Father of Lies.

You are of your father, the devil, and it is your will to practice the lusts and gratify the desires [which are characteristic] of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a falsehood, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar [himself] and the father of lies and of all that is false, John 8:44.

While studying the past, professor Paul Kengor was inspired to craft The Devil and Karl Marx: Communism’s Long March of Death, Deception, and Infiltration. Michael Knowles writes in the foreword “few others writing today who use terms such as collectivism and individualism only take this debate so far. Ultimately the fight comes down to spiritual warfare: good versus evil.” Kengor’s book details the clash of the modern, devilish forces of socialism and communism. You won’t get this in public or higher education.

In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides]. 11 Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere, Ephesians 6:10-12.

During the first century, the apostle Paul’s eyes were opened to the spiritual realm, recognizing how political and spiritual leaders became pawns of the Devil. If you don’t engage the enemy, spiritual footholds will be seized, Ephesians 4:26-27. Instead of being a helpless spectator, watching your city, state, and country fall apart, put on the full armor of God. When you’re unsure of your next move, pray in the Spirit so that your prayers will provide a hedge of protection for spiritual warriors on the front lines. The future of America is on the line Tuesday, November 3rd. Your vote may be the difference from keeping the Devil and Marxism from taking over.

by Jay Mankus

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