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Let Us Not Love in Mere Theory

When I first read the passage below, an image of a famous scene from Good Will Hunting popped into my mind. The context of this scene is that Will played by Matt Damon picks apart Sean’s life played by Robin Williams. Will judges Sean solely based upon a picture that he painted. This brief synopsis of interpretation and theory is like a Christian who merely reads about love in the Bible. You can talk about love in theory, but without applying love, your knowledge is useless.

Little children, let us not love [merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity), 1 John 3:18.

As a disciple of Jesus, John was fortunate to meet thousands of people every week. Apparently, some of these individuals talked about Jesus in theory, but their actions and behavior never changed. The expression “little children” is likely a kind way of telling his readers that they are immature and still have a long way to go. On the other hand, John could be simply using a common expression passed on by Jesus that he adopted following his ascension into heaven.

[Dear] little children, I am to be with you only a little longer. You will look for Me and, as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: you are not able to come where I am going. 34 I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another. 35 By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves], John 13:33-35.

Today, these two passages serve as a reminder from the first century church. This new command is a continuation of Matthew 22:36-40. In other words, as Christians develop and grow in their love for God, pass on this same intensity of love to your neighbors daily. The sign of any thriving church is the depth of love in the hearts of believers. Don’t just talk about love in theory. Rather, put your faith into action by showing the love of Jesus to everyone on earth.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 73: Under the Ruins

Heavy metal music was conceived in the late 1960’s and became popular in Great Britain in the early 70’s. By the middle of the 1980’s, heavy metal was accepted and embraced by North America. When I needed a beat a little harder than rock, I turned to metal to raise my level of intensity.  One of the Christian metal groups that I discovered in college was Xalt.

Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [[f]in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour, 1 Peter 5:8.

Xalt relies on a classic metal sound with lyrics straight out of the Bible. On their Under the Ruins album, Xalt warns its listeners of the Devil and his attempt to steal, kill, and destroy souls, John 10:10. In today’s featured song Under the Ruins, the group exposes the schemes of the Devil, Ephesians 6:11-12. If you don’t take this advice seriously, you might find yourself feeling defeated; left under the ruins of despair.

by Jay Mankus

Intense and Unfailing Love

My parents took me to see Rocky I in the theaters in 1976. When Rocky III debuted 6 years later, this coincided with an inner desire to become a great athlete. The theme song Eye of the Tiger was a daily goal, striving to possess the same intensity of a prized fighter in each of my sports competitions. Two years later, I became a running machine while training for cross country just like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV. Unfortunately, my high school years were full of intensity but lacked love and understanding.

Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and [e]disregards the offenses of others], 1 Peter 4:8.

Intense refers to an extreme degree, force, or strength in which you pursue something. While intense is often associated with competitions, Peter urges first century Christians to pursue their spiritual lives with the same passion. In the passage above, Peter appears to reference Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:14-15. At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, forgiving and loving others is essential for being forgiven by God. This is the purpose and reason for pursuing intense and unfailing love.

You have granted me life and favor, and Your providence has preserved my spirit. 13 Yet these [the present evils] have You hid in Your heart [for me since my creation]; I know that this was with You [in Your purpose and thought], Job 10:12-13.

Whether I like it or not, I have become more like my father as I grow older. My passion for sports has faded, put on hold to become a better father and spiritual life coach for my children. While I am far from the earthly father that God wants me to be, the missing ingredient is an unfailing love like Jesus. Regardless of what has happened in life, all bitterness, grudges, and pain must be released and let go of for good. If I can exchange my intensity for sports and replace it with God’s unfailing love, forgiveness and reconciliation will become a reality on earth.

by Jay Mankus

Pace Yourself

I possess one of those addictive personalities where I tend to follow an all or nothing mindset. When I become passionate about something, I develop the “eye of the tiger” fueled by an intensity to accomplish whatever I set my mind to do. Unfortunately, emotional excitement doesn’t last forever. Subsequently, when I don’t pace myself, I often crash and burn before experiencing the thrill of victory.

Be strong (confident) and of good courage, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only you be strong and very courageous, that you may do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you. Turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go, Joshua 1:6-7.

As Israel began to prepare to enter into God’s promised land, Joshua provides advice for spiritually pacing yourself. Joshua suggests that courage can be conceived from reading the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible which were available to the Levitical Priests. As you begin to live in the pages of the Bible, don’t turn away, drift or stray from God’s commands. As you begin to practice keeping the Sabbath holy, pacing yourself is possible.

This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success, Joshua 1:8.

Whether you’re running or trying to endure the hectic schedule of a busy work week, meditating and reflecting upon biblical principles will help your sanity. Meanwhile, Joshua suggests that those who maintain a daily time of Bible Study will become prosperous and successful. As you learn to set the spiritual pace for believers to follow, the example that you display daily will inspire others to observe and practice spiritual disciplines.

by Jay Mankus

Swift Training

The term swift appears 38 times in the Bible. Swift refers to happening quickly or promptly. There are many circumstances in life that pop up without any warning. When you encounter these situations, there is often little or no time to react. Thus, this requires an immediate response, action that is instantaneous, rapid, and without delay. One of the most famous passages on this topic is Numbers 22:22-35, where the Lord allows Balaam’s donkey to talk or else he would have been killed by an angel of death.

Of the Gadites there went over to David to the stronghold in the wilderness men of might, men trained for war who could handle shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and who were swift as gazelles on the mountains, 1 Chronicles 12:8.

Swift training often began with soldiers, prior to going off to war each spring, 2 Samuel 11:1. According to the passage above, Old Testament boot camps took place in the wilderness, likely in the desert where there was no snow in the winter. The three main criteria for swift training included handling a shield, spear, and being as quick as a gazelle. What set these individuals apart was an intensity which was on display with a glance at their face, possessing the eye of the tiger.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol (the place of the dead), where you are going. 11 I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, neither is bread to the wise nor riches to men of intelligence and understanding nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all, Ecclesiastes 9:10-11.

Yet, swift training isn’t limited to soldiers. King Solomon personalizes swift training to all members of the nation of Israel. Similar to the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 1:5-6, there is an urgency to fan into flames your spiritual gift and talents. It appears that Paul quotes the passage above in Colossians 3:23, a call to put your heart and soul into your best qualities. When you take King Solomon’s words and apply this toward the church, 1 Corinthians 12:6-7, your unique and special gift should be swiftly applied daily.

by Jay Mankus

Turn It Up

In a contest, the best players and teams have a tendency to coast at points during the regular season.  Falling into this trap often leads to disappointing loses and major upsets.  At some point you have to respond, by raising your level of competition.  If you are dedicated, gifted and talented, when you turn it up success usually follows.

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay, Habakkuk 2:3.

According to one of the Old Testament prophets, vision requires patience, resolve and timing.  If you are impatient, you may quit before seeing and tasting the fruits of your labor.  Therefore, when others are on the verge of giving up on a shared dream, remain steadfast by turning up the intensity.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up, Galatians 6:9.

Perhaps the apostle Paul is referencing Habakkuk in the verse above.  The notion of delayed gratification is a foreign to this generation.  In life you can’t just put a prayer request on a credit card, then wait for it the mail to be delivered.  Although some prayers do get answered instantaneously and or quickly, this is not the norm.  Rather, in times of doubt, turn up your faith, waiting for a spiritual harvest to arrive.

by Jay Mankus

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