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Citizens of a Spiritual Commonwealth

As of September 2020, the Bible has been translated into 704 languages. While the original text consists of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, there are now 900 different English translations of the Bible. Unfortunately, in this age of commercialism, certain expressions and words have been lost in translation. For example, the New King James Version uses heaven 327 times in the Old Testament and 255 times in the New Testament. Meanwhile, heaven is only mentioned 422 times in the entire New International Version.

But we are citizens of the state (commonwealth, homeland) which is in heaven, and from it also we earnestly and patiently await [the coming of] the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [as] Savior, Philippians 3:20.

For this reason, I appreciate the Amplified Version which includes all the possible English translations. In the passage above, Paul describes heaven as a commonwealth, homeland, and state. This invisible destination awaits for those who trust in the name of the Lord, Romans 10:9-11. One of Jesus’ disciples received a revelation about what this place will be like, Revelation 21:4. According to John, there will be no more crying, mourning or pain. Heaven is a place where tears will be wiped away.

Who will transform and fashion anew the body of our humiliation to conform to and be like the body of His glory and majesty, by exerting that power which enables Him even to subject everything to Himself, Philippians 3:21.

The apostle Paul takes the concept of heaven one step further. While our earthly bodies are temporary, citizens of heaven will receive a new body that will last for eternity. Another disciple of Jesus refers to heaven’s unusual timeline. According to Peter, one day with the Lord is like a thousand years on earth, 2 Peter 3:8. This is what citizens of this spiritual commonwealth have to look forward to. Don’t get left out as you still have time to make a reservation this Mother’s Day, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Progressively Passionate About God

If you ask a liberal college professor their thoughts about Jesus of Nazareth, progressive isn’t a word that you will hear. However, Jesus spent his last three years on earth surrounded by twelve men. Jesus’ ministry is the very definition of progressive: developing gradually; in stages; proceeding step by step. Jesus was the living Word of God, John 1:1-3. His display of love exemplified the fruits of the Spirit well before the apostle Paul wrote Galatians 5:16-25.

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope], Philippians 3:10.

Shortly after his ascension into heaven, Acts 1:9, the Day of Pentecost added passion to this progressive movement. Rather than condemn and punish wrong action and behavior, grace gave hope to those who didn’t deserve it, Romans 5:8. As the apostles become filled with the Holy Spirit, this progressive passion transformed the first century church, Acts 2:42-47. Poverty was eliminated as Christians saw their neighbors as one big extended family.

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 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.

In a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul compares the church to a well oiled machine. This body with many parts recognizes that each member has been given a special gift, trait or personality designed to share with others, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. As long as these talents are freely offered, passion continues to flow. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus has stunted the growth of many, quenching passion. Nonetheless, if you are willing to develop your faith in a progressive manner, passion will return as believers keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

When Everyone Else Has Given Up on You

White Cross released In the Kingdom in 1991. One of the singles from this album is No Second Chances. The context of these lyrics refer to when you die, there isn’t a second chance to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, Romans 10:9-10. However, the Bible does suggest that some Christians will just barely get into heaven, Hebrews 10:26-27. If this is true, what does the Bible say when everyone else on earth has given up on you?

You are to deliver this man over to Satan for physical discipline [to destroy carnal lusts which prompted him to incest], that [his] spirit may [yet] be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus, 1 Corinthians 5:5.

In the city of Corinth, a member of the church who is either a teenager or young adult has taken his father’s wife for himself. This act of incest angered Paul and inspired the words above. Just as Jesus handed over Judas Iscariot over to Satan, Paul does the same for this man. Despite the tone of Paul’s letter, there is a sliver of hope that severe church discipline will somehow save this lost soul.

For it is impossible [to restore and bring again to repentance] those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become sharers of the Holy Spirit, And have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come, If they then deviate from the faith and turn away from their allegiance—[it is impossible] to bring them back to repentance, for (because, while, as long as) they nail upon the cross the Son of God afresh [as far as they are concerned] and are holding [Him] up to contempt and shame and public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

Meanwhile, the author of Hebrews points to a Christian struggling with addiction. While there is no description of this bad habit or habitual sin, there isn’t any sign of contrition or a willingness to change. Coaches, parents, or teachers encounter individuals like Hebrews 6:6 every year. Unfortunately, these prodigals haven’t reach rock bottom or come to their senses. My prayer to anyone who thinks they are too far gone, remember the words of Luke 15:18 because God never gives up on lost sheep.

by Jay Mankus

When Gusts of Doubt Uproot Your Faith

Every Easter pastors, priests, and teachers read passages in the Bible of disciples abandoning Jesus in His greatest time of need. When asked to pray late at night, they fell asleep. After being confronted about his relationship, Peter, a member of Jesus’ inner circle, denied knowing Jesus on three different occasions. As the winds of doubt began to blow on that original Good Friday, the only disciple not uprooted by the pressure to conform was John who took care of Mary after Jesus ascended into heaven.

Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind. For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord, [For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides], James 1:6-8.

According to first centurion historians, even Jesus’ earthly brother, James, did not believe until Resurrection Sunday. Perhaps, the passage above is a personal confession, disappointed by his own lack of faith. Instead using his God given ears to hear and eyes to see, gusts of doubt blinded James from Jesus’ true identity. Nearly 2000 years later, the gusts of doubt continue to blow. Some of these storms are hidden by gray clouds, appearing without a moments notice. When the sky clears, a trail of wounded souls and debris remain.

And Jesus answered them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith (a firm relying trust) and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea, it will be done. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive, Matthew 21:21-22.

The apostle Paul compares faith to a deeply rooted tree, Colossians 2:7, nourished and built up by Christ. Unfortunately, winds of doubt often separate believers from their source of light and life. After cursing an unproductive fig tree, the disciples were shocked by Jesus’ miraculous powers. Jesus uses this teachable moment to reveal how doubt impacts his followers. Therefore, the next time you feel the gusts of doubt begin to blow, clear your mind before prayer is exercised to secure a firm defense.

by Jay Mankus

The Stewardship of God’s Grace

Stewardship is the conducting, managing and or supervising of a specific operation. The context of the passage below refers to the careful management, entrusted to apostles, to oversee a believer’s spiritual condition. This responsibility isn’t merit based. Rather, the apostle Paul and Jesus’ disciples became the caretakers of the great commission, Acts 1:7-8. As the good news about Jesus Christ spread beyond Jerusalem to surrounding towns and villages, the stewardship of God’s grace continued, Ephesians 2:8.

Assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace (His unmerited favor) that was entrusted to me [to dispense to you] for your benefit, [And] that the mystery (secret) was made known to me and I was allowed to comprehend it by direct revelation, as I already briefly wrote you, Ephesians 3:2-3.

Paul was first introduced to this concept on the road to Damascus. This supernatural event altered Paul’s path as a persecutor of the church. Described as a flash of lightning from heaven, before this encounter concluded, the apostle Paul would walk away a transformed man. Yet, Paul was initially blinded by this light, led by his hand to a disciple named Ananias. This divine appointment on the street called Straight ignited a spiritual fire within Paul to propel him to become a steward of God’s grace.

Now as he traveled on, he came near to Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him, And he fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me [harassing, troubling, and molesting Me]? And Saul said, Who are You, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting. It is dangerous and it will turn out badly for you to keep kicking against the goad [to offer vain and perilous resistance], Acts 9:3-5.

In a letter to the Church in Rome, Paul highlights exactly what Jesus did for you and me. “God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.” Romans 5:8. One chapter later, Paul compares grace to a free gift, Romans 6:23. Building upon the words of King David, God’s grace is infinite, far greater than the human mind can comprehend, Psalm 103:11-12. This is what makes the stewardship of God’s grace continue today.

by Jay Mankus

The Mystery Kept Hidden Through the Ages

Battles, conflicts, and wars can extend beyond a generation. The Arauco War between Spain and the Mapuche Tribe spanned 3 centuries, beginning in 1536 before ending in1825. Meanwhile, the Reconquista War is recognized as the longest lasting battle on earth, ending 780 years after it began. However, there is a spiritual conflict that remains ongoing. This began when the archangel Lucifer was kicked out of heaven in Ezekiel 28:12-19. Not wanting to go down without a fight, Lucifer took the form of a serpent to stake his claim on earth as the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2.

And the Lord God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all [domestic] animals and above every [wild] living thing of the field; upon your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust [and what it contains] all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring; He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel, Genesis 3:14-15.

Desperate this temporary loss, God had another plan up His sleeves. The mystery kept hidden for the ages is slipped into the passage above, a glimpse of what lies in wait for the future. What makes this mystery intriguing is the 400 years of silence between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Based upon the reign of Herod the Great, Jesus was born sometime around 4 BC. Although it’s unclear if current calendar’s are off by 4 years, first century Jews were not in agreement on exactly who the promised Messiah would be.

Also to enlighten all men and make plain to them what is the plan [regarding the Gentiles and providing for the salvation of all men] of the mystery kept hidden through the ages and concealed until now in [the mind of] God Who created all things by Christ Jesus, Ephesians 3:9.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are designed to fill in the gaps between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Thus, as Jesus’ earthly ministry came to an end and the apostles picked up this spiritual baton, Jews and Gentiles were introduced to God’s master plan, put into place following the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. As Paul carried out the Great Commission via his missionary journeys in the book of Acts, Paul describes Jesus as the second Adam, Romans 5:12-21. This is where the mystery of the ages is brought to light and proclaimed to the world, John 3:16-17.

by Jay Mankus

The Exercise of God’s Power

Exercise is the act of bringing into play. While exercise is a vehicle to lose weight or stay in shape, this isn’t something that human beings attribute to God. Yet, when fasting sets the spiritual tone and prayers are lifted up to heaven, miracles are the realization of God’s power in action. The Old Testament is filled with accounts of bizarre events that defy science. Whether it’s the ten plagues unleashed upon Egypt, the sound of trumpets bringing down the walls of Jericho or the resurrection of Jesus, this is the exercise of God’s power.

Of this [Gospel] I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s free grace (undeserved favor) which was bestowed on me by the exercise (the working in all its effectiveness) of His power, Ephesians 3:7.

The context of the passage above begins with the ministerial gift available to apostles, preachers, and teachers. As spiritual leaders bestow the gift of God’s grace upon their followers, lives are slowly changed. While some individuals are transformed over night, most experience a gradual evolution into a new creation in Christ Jesus. Perhaps, the apostle Paul credits revived souls to the exercise of God’s power working behind the scenes. The catalyst of this spiritual change is fuel by the Holy Spirit, aka, the Holy Ghost.

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], Ephesians 6:10.

Three chapters later, the apostle Paul reveals why spiritual exercise is necessary. As Paul unveils the spiritual dimension, you will find oppressive authority exerted by governments, master spirits who control world leaders, and spiritual forces of wickedness seeking to cause havoc in this supernatural realm. Without the exercise of God’s power, defeat and destruction is likely. However, as Christians begin to put on the armor of God, Ephesians 6:10-18, with a layer of prayer, the exercise of God’s power will propel you to victory in the end.

by Jay Mankus

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

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