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Get Behind Me

The term band-wagon first appeared in 1849. This initial meaning referred to a large wagon used to carry the band in a circus procession. Theodore Roosevelt used bandwagon in his writings in the context of politics, “attaching oneself to anything that looks likely to succeed.” Modern day sports talk hosts have adopted bandwagon as a label to highlight fair weather fans. When a local team over achieves, the bandwagon becomes full. However, when a successful team gets off to a slow start, many quickly jump off the bandwagon.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also]. 25 For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting], Matthew 16:24-25.

A Jewish disciple explores what it means to truly get behind Jesus. This chapter provides examples of what to do and what not to do. One individual becomes a hero and a goat in a matter of seconds. However, this is what happens when you are not slow to speak, blurting out whatever enters your mind. The context of the passage begins with an open ended question as Jesus asks, “who do people say that I am?” After receiving a few replies, Jesus changes the question to “what do you think?” After Peter correctly identifies Jesus as the promised Messiah, he then proceeds to attempt to stop Jesus from fulfilling God’s will.

Then Peter took Him aside to speak to Him privately and began to reprove and charge Him sharply, saying, God forbid, Lord! This must never happen to You! 23 But Jesus turned away from Peter and said to him, Get behind Me, Satan! You are in My way [an offense and a hindrance and a snare to Me]; for you are minding what partakes not of the nature and quality of God, but of men, Matthew 16:22-23.

When God or life doesn’t make sense, this is when human beings tend to improvise. Since Peter thought Jesus would become an earthly king, he refused to believe that his mentor was born to become a living sacrifice. When justice doesn’t prevail and evil triumphs, your allegiance is tested. Just to qualify to become one of Jesus’ disciples involves taking extreme measures. While everyone will wobble from time to time due to uncertainty, your actions will determine who’s side you are on. May the Holy Spirit bring clarity to any confusion so you get behind the right side.

by Jay Mankus

More Than a Phoenix Rising

In Ancient Greek folklore, a phoenix is a bird that cyclically regenerates. This regeneration process is similar to the Christian concept of becoming born again. To rise like a phoenix is symbolic of overcoming adversity. When a phoenix rose from the ashes, this new bird emerges stronger, smarter and more powerful than before it’s death. Thus, when an individual makes a spiritual decision to die to self, 2 Corinthians 5:21, this resurrection is greater than a Phoenix rising.

But now if Christ (the Messiah) is preached as raised from the dead, how is it that some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not risen; 1 Corinthians 15:12-13,

Without the resurrection, the Christian church would merely be a club or group living in denial. The Roman’s feared accounts of Jesus’ resurrection so much that soldier’s were bribed with a large sum of money to spread fake news, Matthew 28:11-13. This lie became widely accepted as rumors spread like an out of control wildfire claiming that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, his disciples merely came and stole his body. Recognizing that many still believed this theory, Paul devotes an entire chapter of the Bible to the resurrection of the death using Jesus as his inspiration.

14 And if Christ has not risen, then our preaching is in vain [it amounts to nothing] and your faith is devoid of truth and is fruitless (without effect, empty, imaginary, and unfounded).15 We are even discovered to be misrepresenting God, for we testified of Him that He raised Christ, Whom He did not raise in case it is true that the dead are not raised, 1 Corinthians 15:14-15.

While doing research for this blog I discovered that Phoenix Rising is the name of a charity that supports people who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is a disabling disease that affects multiple body systems which often results in a post-exertional malaise. As a Christian, there are many days that I wake up without any energy. Just as Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “the Spirit is willing, but the body is weak,” this struggle still exists today. When you start to lose this battle, the power of the Holy Spirit is needed to rise from the ashes of defeat to a higher spiritual state, more than a Phoenix rising.

by Jay Mankus

What’s Going on Beneath the Surface in America?

It doesn’t take Captain Obvious to reveal that 2020 will go down as one of the worst years of this century. Just like 1918 was marred by the Spanish Flu pandemic, the Coronavirus is changing the way that people live today. Depending upon what the future spread of this virus, hand shakes, hugs and other personal displays of affection may be a thing of the past. This is just one of the under lying currents going on beneath the surface.

But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief [of the celestial] princes, came to help me, for I remained there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I have come to make you understand what is to befall your people in the latter days, for the vision is for [many] days yet to come, Daniel 10:13-14.

Prior to the Soviet Union’s occupation of Lithuania in 1940, the citizens of this country were religious. My father was born and raised in the Roman Catholic as the forces of communism began to attack institutions of faith. During the Soviet’s occupation of Lithuania, religious symbols began to disappear. Traces of absolute truth began to vanish from Lithuania in an attempt to fundamentally change my father’s country. The more I study history and talk to my father, I fear the same forces are at work in America.

For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do, Galatians 5:17.

According to an Old Testament leader, demonic strongholds exist throughout the earth. These powers of darkness often control major cities, filling the minds of citizens with ungodly beliefs. Daniel encounters a demonic force that he calls the Prince of Persia. Held captive for nearly a month, Daniel needed the arch angel Michael to come to his aid. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul refers to the internal battle within human souls as a war between the flesh and God’s Spirit. These a just a few of the factors going on beneath the surface that are attempting to radically change the United States of America. May the prayers of the saints reverse this trend.

by Jay Mankus

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In 1982, the Clash released their album Combat Rock. While the song Should I Stay or Should I Go never cracked the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 Charts at this time, a commercial a decade later struck a cord with music lovers. Following a Levi Jeans ad campaign featuring this song, Should I Stay or Should I Go was re-released in 1991. Subsequently, this song reached number one on the United Kingdom’s Singles Chart. This success led Rolling Stones Magazine to rate this Clash hit as one of the top 500 Greatest Songs of all time in 2004.

When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were going from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, Tarry here, I pray you, for the Lord has sent me to Bethel. But Elisha replied, As the Lord lives and as your soul lives, I will not leave you. So they went down to Bethel. The prophets’ sons who were at Bethel came to Elisha and said, Do you know that the Lord will take your master away from you today? He said, Yes, I know it; hold your peace, 2 Kings 2:1-3.

In the Old Testament, one man was chosen to be the successor of Elijah. Prior to the mantle from being passed on, God tests Elisha to see if he is up to the challenge. Beginning in 2 Kings 2, Elijah visits four cities, asking Elisha to stay behind. Eager to spend ever last minute with Elijah, Elisha refuses to take no for an answer. Each time Elisha replies, “As the Lord lives and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.” One of the reasons for this resolve is that Elisha’s request for a double portion of Elijah was dependent of witnessing Elijah being taken up to heaven. Thus, Elisha is determined to go wherever God leads Elijah.

Elijah said to him, Tarry here, I pray you, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan. But he said, As the Lord lives and as your soul lives, I will not leave you. And the two of them went on. Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood [to watch] afar off; and the two of them stood by the Jordan. And Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up and struck the waters, and they divided this way and that, so that the two of them went over on dry ground. And when they had gone over, Elijah said to Elisha, Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you. And Elisha said, I pray you, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me, 2 Kings 2:6-9.

Upon being freed from a legion of demons, a man begs Jesus to become one of his disciples, Mark 5:17-20. However, Jesus convinced this man to go home to his family and share how God has healed him. To those with broken, dysfunctional or unloving families, this call is difficult. The question you have to ask yourself, “should I stay where I am in a comfortable spot in life or leave my comfort zone to share my faith with others?” Although you still may be stuck at home due to the Coronavirus, when America reopens for good, God is looking for the next Elisha, eager to receive a double portion of the Holy Spirit by going where God leaves.

by Jay Mankus

Unfinished

Every once in a while, I will get ahead of myself. Instead of finishing strong, I will celebrate too early, before an outcome has been determined. This premature response often causes individuals to take their foot of the gas, coasting the final portion of a contest, day or game. Whether arrogance, overconfidence or pride is to blame, victory tends to slip out of your hands as you try to run out the clock.

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, Hebrews 6:4-5.

The author of Hebrews writes about a similar mindset, Christians who want to fast forward to heaven. Although a specific person is not mentioned, it appears that first century converts from Judaism to Christianity became complacent. Instead of growing closer to God day after day, spiritual exercise was replaced by a casual faith. One of Jesus’ disciples refers to this condition as a lukewarm spirit in the first century.

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 6:6.

Those who allow this trend to continue end up an unfinished product, not fulfilling God’s calling, plan or will. The words used in the passage above imply a stubborn heart has resulted in a lack of urgency. Like a scene from the 1993 film Groundhog Day, souls keep falling prey to temptation, committing sins over and over again. If want to break free from this addictive pattern, it’s time to invite Jesus to become the Lord of your life so that unfinished areas are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

A Permanent Dwelling Place

The biblical city of Corinth is located in modern day Greece, southwest of Athens. According to Acts 17:16, the apostle Paul is grieved by a city full of idols. Based upon an encounter with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, Paul did find two positive signs. Using an altar dedicated to an unknown god and a poet who writes about being an offspring of God, Paul introduces the God of the Bible to the Greeks. Based upon the passages below, the Corinthians needed to abandon their current idols so that room could be made for a permanent dwelling place for God’s Spirit.

Do you not discern and understand that you [the whole church at Corinth] are God’s temple (His sanctuary), and that God’s Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you [to be at home in you, collectively as a church and also individually]? 17 If anyone does hurt to God’s temple or corrupts it [with false doctrines] or destroys it, God will do hurt to him and bring him to the corruption of death and destroy him. For the temple of God is holy (sacred to Him) and that [temple] you [the believing church and its individual believers] are, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.

Just as Jewish religious leaders viewed the temple as a physical building to worship God, Greeks possessed a similar mindset. Thus, Paul compares human bodies to a living spiritual temple. This inner sanctuary is where the Holy Spirit was designed to reside within your soul. However, until you recognize this spiritual truth, daily actions, choices and selfish decisions can corrupt, damage or hinder the Spirit’s ability to transform your life. Perhaps, this explains why Paul repeats himself three chapters later, using an analogy of a prostitute to grab a reader’s attention.

Or do you not know and realize that when a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? The two, it is written, shall become one flesh. 17 But the person who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him. 18 Shun immorality and all sexual looseness [flee from impurity in thought, word, or deed]. Any other sin which a man commits is one outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, 1 Corinthians 6:16-19.

Addressing ungodly relationships within the church, Paul adds a new dimension to human bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit. Most sins that individuals commit are external such as gossip, fits of rage or slander. However, any type of sexual sin in the form of sexual immorality harms your own body. While you may have desires to make a permanent dwelling place for the Holy Spirit, sin will shut the door, locking God out. The only way to repair your relationship with God is to be reunited by purging sexual sins from your life. Until your temple is swept clean from sin, the Spirit will only have a temporary home.

by Jay Mankus

A Revolution Deep Within

The book definition of revolution is a forcible overthrow of a government in favor of a new system or social order. Synonyms include insurrection, rebellion, revolt and uprising. As the United States prepares for the 2020 Presidential Election, cable news networks are suggesting that a political revolution is about to occur. The more capitalism is demonized and communism is glorified by public education, potential voters will decide the future of this nation.

I indeed baptize you in (with) water because of repentance [that is, because of your changing your minds for the better, heartily amending your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins]. But He Who is coming after me is mightier than I, Whose sandals I am not worthy or fit to take off or carry; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire, Matthew 3:11.

The Bible refers to a different kind of revolution, one that is deep inside the human soul. A first century prophet refers to this spiritual revolution in the passage above. John the Baptist understood his limited role of a forerunner, preparing the way for a great spiritual leader. While John practiced a traditional baptism in water, Jesus introduced the baptism of the Holy Spirit. One of Jesus’ disciples refers to this concept in the passage below. First century conversions were always followed by public baptisms.

And Peter answered them, Repent (change your views and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it) and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38.

Unfortunately, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit has created division and turmoil within modern Christian churches. While some denominations encourage the baptism of the Holy Spirit, others claim that if you haven’t experienced or received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you aren’t saved. Several theologians suggest that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the Pentecost was unique, limited to that period in history. Whatever you may believe, spiritual revolution begins deep within human hearts that accept and embrace God’s free gift of eternal life as their own, Romans 6:23.

by Jay Mankus

Bringing to Light the Secret Things

Biblical context helps prevent wrong interpretations of Scripture. When you make assumptions about a specific verse in the Bible, you have to view each individual passage like one piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Context allows you to place similar pieces together. The more pieces you have connected, the clearer your understanding becomes of the Bible. The term theology refers to the science of God. The more you read and study the Bible, the full meaning of a passage comes into focus.

So do not make any hasty or premature judgments before the time when the Lord comes [again], for He will both bring to light the secret things that are [now hidden] in darkness and disclose and expose the [secret] aims (motives and purposes) of hearts. Then every man will receive his [due] commendation from God, 1 Corinthians 4:5.

In the passage above, Paul is writing to members of Corinth who had a tendency to jump to conclusions. A spiritual leader named Apollos became a fan favorite, like the church whose attendance drops whenever the senior pastor isn’t preaching. Thus, Paul encourages first century Christians to avoid making premature decisions. Give outsiders a chance, an opportunity to demonstrate and sow spiritual fruit. While not everyone will be eloquent, Christ living within hearts make leaders great.

When we were living in the flesh (mere physical lives), the sinful passions that were awakened and aroused up by [what] the Law [makes sin] were constantly operating in our natural powers (in our bodily organs, in the sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh), so that we bore fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the Law and have terminated all intercourse with it, having died to what once restrained and held us captive. So now we serve not under [obedience to] the old code of written regulations, but [under obedience to the promptings] of the Spirit in newness [of life], Romans 7:5-6.

One chapter unveils the issue raging within human souls. The apostle Paul pours out his heart in Romans 7, explaining the invisible tug of war that exists within each person. Bringing to light the secret things, Paul exposes sinful passions that arouse sensitive appetites. When you connect the passage above to Galatians 5:16-17, this internal spiritual war comes to life. Like feeding a beast, the more you give into selfish desires, the less room there is for the Holy Spirit to operate. Therefore, if you want to follow the prompting of God’s spirit, hearts and minds must be fixed on things above, Colossians 3:1-4.

by Jay Mankus

A Special Endowment from God

Leadership is the action of leading a group of people through hardship, ordeals and trials. Genuine leaders cast a vision, take the initiative as a trail blazers to show the way and direct and guide followers through difficult times. Researchers have uncovered 12 different leadership styles that exist. A leadership style is merely the way a person uses power to lead other people. If you are still stuck at home as a non-essential worker, you’ve probably seen rogue governors of several states using the national guard and police officers to enforce their specific declarations. Several of these ordinances are unconstitutional, but these leaders are using fear of the Coronavirus to control American citizens.

Let no one despise or think less of you because of your youth, but be an example (pattern) for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity, 1 Timothy 4:12.

The older I become, the more I hear and see people blame God for disasters, failures or setbacks that they face in life.  Meanwhile, these same individuals, especially politicians, grandstand by taking credit for any accomplishment, success or victory in their city, state or county.  Instead of spreading around the praise to all the parties involved, press conferences are used to deflect blame while hoarding the credit.  Natural leaders don’t have to pretend to be successful as their labor is on display, a visible sign of spiritual fruit.  Unfortunately, God has become the scapegoat when things go wrong, a proverbial punching bag at the center of many complaints.

Do not neglect the gift which is in you, [that special inward endowment] which was directly imparted to you [by the Holy Spirit] by prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands upon you [at your ordination]. 15 Practice and cultivate and meditate upon these duties; throw yourself wholly into them [as your ministry], so that your progress may be evident to everybody, 1 Timothy 4:14-15.

The passage above is a blue print for spiritual leadership. According to the apostle Paul, everyone is given a special endowment from God. This spiritual gift often lays dormant until the Holy Spirit enters your life through a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-10. In the first century, the laying on of hands was a common practice for healing and prayer. The apostle Paul urges Timothy to fan into flame the spiritual gift revealed to him in 2 Timothy 1:6. In other words, you can’t be the leader God wants you to become until your spiritual gift is discovered and implemented. While you can’t control what others do or say, may this blog inspire you to show others the way as action speak louder than words.

by Jay Mankus

Inviting the Holy Ghost into Your Home

As COVID-19 quarantines remain in place within several states, houses of worship are being forced to become creative. To ensure that their members return once churches are allowed to reopen, preachers, priests and teachers are gearing their messages toward this crisis. While listening to Jentezen Franklin’s sermon on TBN, he told a story from his childhood. Whenever visiting his grandfather’s house, the largest room was turned into a make shift worship service, inviting the Holy Ghost into this place.

And on the first day of the week, when we were assembled together to break bread [the Lord’s Supper], Paul discoursed with them, intending to leave the next morning; and he kept on with his message until midnight. Now there were numerous lights in the upper room where we were assembled, And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting in the window. He was borne down with deep sleep as Paul kept on talking still longer, and [finally] completely overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was picked up dead, Acts 20:7-9.

During the first century, Christians met in homes or outside in open areas. Instead of gathering in a centralized large building, churches met inside the homes of leaders or the wealthy who volunteered to host. Luke writes about one such service which took place in Troas. Apparently, the apostle Paul became long winded speaking until midnight. Meeting in a third story attic, a teenage boy began to fall asleep, moving toward an open window, trying to stay awake. Eutychus’ fall opened the door for a powerful healing.

But Paul went down and bent over him and embraced him, saying, Make no ado; his life is within him. 11 When Paul had gone back upstairs and had broken bread and eaten [with them], and after he had talked confidentially and communed with them for a considerable time—until daybreak [in fact]—he departed, Acts 20:10-11.

As modern believers open their homes to accountability groups, Bible Studies or prayer meetings, relationships begin to form. Instead of dreading attending a long service, these newly formed friendships turn a weekly event into an experience. However, until churches open their doors once again, the best thing you can do now is invite the Holy Ghost into your home. Acts 19:2 asks the question, “have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?” Thus, before you can invite this Spirit, you must first receive it as your own, Romans 10:9-10.

by Jay Mankus

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