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A Synagogue of Satan

Slander is the act of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation. While slander is a daily occurrence on social media, human beings have been cruel from the beginning of time on earth. In the past few years, slander has resulted in lawsuits against cable news networks and newspapers. Yet, for a Christian church labeled as a synagogue of Satan, they turned the other cheek, Matthew 5:39.

I know your affliction and distress and pressing trouble and your poverty—but you are rich! and how you are abused and reviled and slandered by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan, Revelation 2:9.

To any Jewish adult steeped in religious traditions in the first century, Jesus was seen as a threat to the Jewish faith. Perhaps, this explains why Jewish elders, Pharisees and the high priest influenced the crowd on that first Good Friday nearly 2000 years ago. Meanwhile, other ancient writings refer to Jesus as the great magician, claiming the miracles Jesus performed relied on Black magic made possible by Satan.

 [And see to it that] your conscience is entirely clear ([e]unimpaired), so that, when you are falsely accused as evildoers, those who threaten you abusively and revile your right behavior in Christ may come to be ashamed [of slandering your good lives]. 17 For [it is] better to suffer [unjustly] for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than to suffer [justly] for doing wrong, 1 Peter 3:16-17.

Since slander will never go away, one of Jesus’ disciples provides advice when you are on the wrong end of abusive words. According to Peter, it is better to suffer for doing what is right. Subsequently, if you are slandered for being a faithful follower of Jesus, embrace criticism in the name of spiritual maturity. If a former church can survive being labeled as a synagogue of Satan, you too can overcome slander today.

by Jay Mankus

No Doubt About It

One of the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church is a time of prayer during each mass. Depending upon the congregation or priest, a list of prayers is usually read out loud. Following each individual request, the audience responds with “Lord hear our prayer.” One of Jesus’ disciples writes about this in the passage below. According to John, God does hear these prayers and there’s no doubt about it.

And if (since) we [positively] know that He listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him, 1 John 5:15.

It’s not uncommon for children to adopt an invisible friend when they are young. While parents may be uneasy about this behavior, this is the power of the imagination of a child at work. Similar to Robin Williams’ adult character in the film Hook, age and time have a way of sucking the joy out of parents. Rather than revel in the innocence of being young, the Devil has a way of wearing down faith, John 10:10.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled greatly and asked, How is it that the fig tree has withered away all at once? 21 And Jesus answered them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith (a [n]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 21:20-22.

During a first century walk, Jesus teaches his disciples a powerful lesson about pray. This isn’t a meaningless imaginary exercise where you pretend to talk to an invisible God. Rather prayer is maximized when Christians approach God without doubt. Having belief and faith takes prayer to the next level. To those who pray without a doubt begin to move the mountains blocking God’s path for you.

by Jay Mankus

What You Don’t Plant Never Blooms

Planning and Planting share one crucial ingredient: timing is everything. If you plant crops or a garden too soon, cold weather and frost can ruin all of your hard work. Meanwhile, if you wait too long to plant each spring, arid and wet weather can diminish and or nullify every seed that was soon. My last season of snap peas in Delaware never came up due to several inches of rain; swamping my garden for a week.

He who observes the wind [and waits for all conditions to be favorable] will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you know not what is the way of the wind, or how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a pregnant woman, even so you know not the work of God, Who does all. In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hands, for you know not which shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether both alike will be good, Ecclesiastes 11:4-6.

One of my favorite classes in college was Economic Geography. Most of this class was based upon simulations using natural resources and climate. One unit was farming, using the Farmer’s Almanac to determine what crop or crops you were going to plant based upon previous weather patterns. I decided to diversify, planting two different crops. While I did okay, planting anything involves taking a risk.

Other seeds fell on good soil, and yielded grain—some a hundred times as much as was sown, some sixty times as much, and some thirty. He who has ears [to hear], let him be listening and let him [a]consider and [b]perceive and comprehend by hearing, Matthew 13:8-9.

In the parable of the Sower, Jesus explains the meaning of this story to his disciples. Most soils that you plant in will have limitations. Some regions are too arid, others too rocky and a few are so wild that thorns and vines can overwhelm anything you try to plant. The goal for any homeowner is to improve your environment (soil) annually. Although the weather may not cooperate for you, what you don’t plant never blooms.

by Jay Mankus

You Can Only Serve One Lord Faithfully

Between telling stories of parables, teaching at local synagogues and preaching to the masses, Jesus visually connected with his audience. While Jesus never told anyone the answers outside of his disciples, illustrations were shared in public to make people think. This style of teaching created a spiritual hunger deep inside of many of Jesus’ followers. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that you can only serve one master faithfully. Depending upon what you treasure dictates your final decision.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light, Matthew 6:21-22.

Unfortunately, theology (the science of God) is used by some modern-day preachers to speak down to members of their congregation. This is not consistent with Jesus’ first century teachings. Your eyes are designed by God to be the lamp of your body. However, if your eyes start to deteriorate, darkness will enter your life. If this darkness is not addressed, you might find yourself trying to serve God and money.

But if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the very light in you [your [r]conscience] is darkened, how dense is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be [s]against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon ([t]deceitful riches, money, possessions, or [u]whatever is trusted in), Matthew 6:23-24.

At some point over the past 50 years, the fire and brimstone preaching of the 1970’s has become water downed with positive and politically correct sermons. Instead of focusing on hard-hitting messages that confront darkness living inside of Christians, mainline churches prefer themes that promote increased giving. While the apostle Paul is clear that no one is perfect, Romans 3:9-12, your priorities and time dictate who you’re serving, Matthew 6:33-34. Who and what you seek first will determine who you will serve in the future.

by Jay Mankus

Use Guidance… Not Coercion

As a former teacher, I understand why some people may opt for coercion over guidance. Whenever an adult loses control of a classroom, the practice of persuading children to do something by force or threats is used as an act of desperation. After taking a Classroom Management graduate level course, I learned that students need structure. When you clarify your expectations and demonstrate a gentle but firm spirit, coercion is not necessary.

Tend (nurture, guard, guide, and fold) the flock of God that is [your responsibility], not by coercion or constraint, but willingly; not dishonorably motivated by the advantages and profits [belonging to the office], but eagerly and cheerfully; 1 Peter 5:2.

When I read and study the Bible, I see a big contrast between Jesus and the religious leaders of the first century. Jesus lived his life like a shepherd tending a large flock of sheep. Rather than oversee his disciples like a control freak, Jesus demonstrated how he wanted his followers to live their lives. Meanwhile, the Pharisees used God’s commandments, decrees and principles to coerce sinners into following religious practices.

Not domineering [as arrogant, dictatorial, and overbearing persons] over those in your charge, but being examples (patterns and models of Christian living) to the flock (the congregation), 1 Peter 5:3.

Despite being a vocal leader, Peter understood the importance of emulating the life and patterns of Jesus. When a leader is domineering or overbearing, fear and peer pressure is used to manipulate other people. This is all exercised and laid out to achieve a desired outcome. Yet, rarely do these leaders consider if this is what Lord wants. While the addressing the Church at Galatia, the apostle Paul compares this style of leadership with witchcraft, Galatians 3:1-2. In view of this, may the Holy Spirit convince you to focus on guidance and not coercion.

by Jay Mankus

When the Love of Money Goes Too Far

As a former seminary student and Bible teacher, I cringe every time ill-informed politicians take the Bible out of context. Rather than correct these errors, journalists and television commentator’s often gloss over these ungodly beliefs to avoid confrontation or criticism. Perhaps this explains why some people believe that you can’t be a Christian and wealthy at the same time. However, the root of all evil is when the love of money goes too far.

For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many [e]acute [mental] pangs, 1 Timothy 6:10.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to money in Matthew 6:19-24 and Matthew 6:32-34. The first passage alludes to treasures that your heart can’t stop thinking about. When trust in God is replaced by money, souls become consumed by anxiety and worry. As long as individuals supplement money in exchange for faith in God, panic attacks will wear down troubled and weary souls. This unhealthy craving for money continues today as a sign that the love of money has gone too far.

Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself], 1 John 2:15-16.

One of Jesus’ disciples combines acts of the sinful nature with a love for earthly treasures. The answer to reversing sensual gratifications, greedy longings and the pride of self-reliance is found in Galatians 5:16-25. This internal wrestling match goes on daily between the flesh and God’s Spirit. Yet, according to Jesus the only way to break away is through turning your attention towards seeking first God’s righteousness. Until your spiritual priorities change, you’re at risk at letting the love of money go too far.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Volume 8: Leaving

Today’s song comes from one the best Christian rock albums ever made. The only problem is I could only find one of the 12 songs from Reflescent Tide’s Spring Catalog on the internet. Which means that most Christians have been deprived from ever listening to this classic sound. Reflescent Tide is the Green Day of Christian music. Spring Catalog includes hit songs like Seven Days, Butterfly Wings and Basking in the Glow.

Is anyone among you afflicted (ill-treated, suffering evil)? He should pray. Is anyone glad at heart? He should sing praise [to God], James 5:13.

I stumbled upon Reflescent Tide while serving as a youth pastor in the mid-west. If I had access to a CD, I’d download 10 of the 12 songs immediately to my computer. Yet, for now my only proof that list band exists is a cassette tape. The lyrics of today’s song Leaving talks about how Jesus had to leave the Garden of Gethsemane as a prisoner in order to carry out God’s will. The thought of laying down his life brought Jesus to his knees as his sweat became like blood. May Leaving touch your soul as you listen.

by Jay Mankus

Welcome the Word of God in 2022

If you have children or received any sort of electronic gift for Christmas, you will find instructions enclosed inside. This manual is designed to show you how to put this gift together if not already assembled and how to use it. The best selling book of all time does not contain instructions in the beginning. Rather, the Bible uses history to illustrate how to and how not to live your life. If you’re stuck in a rut or tired of not being able to turn your life around, welcome the Word of God in 2022 to jump start this new year.

So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth], James 1:21-22.

According to the passage above, Jesus’ earthly brother made an important connection between the Bible and this spiritual leader. When Joshua took over for Moses to lead Israel into God’s promised land, one of his first commands was to meditate upon God’s Word daily. If this practice results in the spiritual discipline of Bible Study, these truths will become implanted within your mind. Meanwhile, anyone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness will began to develop a heart for God.

For if anyone only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror; 24 For he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like. 25 But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience), James 1:23-25.

Yet, whenever you read any book, you have two choices. Are you the type of person who loves plowing through book after book eager to discover the next one? Or do you savor each page, stopping to write down notes as you read so you don’t forget an important insight, lesson or point? At the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls his audience to become doers of the Word, not just listeners. Anyone can read the Bible, but those who are convicted to turn their life around will welcome the Word of God in 2022.

by Jay Mankus

Clear the Board

One of my favorite parts of teaching was using a white board. I tried to find as many colors as possible to write down crucial points that I wanted my students to remember. Prior to creating Power Point presentations for all of my lessons, the board contained everything I wanted my students to know for upcoming quizzes and tests. At the end of every class, I cleared the board as students cried out “wait!”

He has not dealt with us after our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us, Psalm 103:10-12.

God had another thing in mind when talking about clearing the board. The beginning of the Old Testament speaks of a God of wrath and punishment for those who disobey. Yet, the Psalmist in the passage above provides a picture of forgiveness. Instead of keeping of list of who have been naughty and who has been nice this year, God clears the board of any wrong you’ve ever committed or done. These transgressions are erased as far as the east is from the west for infinity.

For if you forgive people their trespasses [their [g]reckless and willful sins, [h]leaving them, letting them go, and [i]giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their [j]reckless and willful sins, [k]leaving them, letting them go, and [l]giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses, Matthew 6:14-15.

During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides more of a personal approach to clearing the board. While the Psalmist shares something that sounds too good to be true, Jesus introduces the conditions placed upon forgiveness. If you’re willing to clear the board by forgiving those who have done wrong to you, God will forgive you. However, if you can’t forgive and forget, you won’t be forgiven by God. Therefore, the next time you feel like holding a grudge, let go of any past pain by clearing the board.

by Jay Mankus

Jesus, Joy, and Generosity

Before I became a Christian, there were several individuals that I met which stood out to me. I couldn’t figure out what it was about these people, but each of them possessed an inner peace. One winter night during my sophomore year of high school, a man in a wheel chair gave the keynote address to an audience full of athletes. By the time Skip Wilkins reached the conclusion of his testimony, I wanted what he had inside of his heart, Jesus.

I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it [b]overflows), John 10:9-10.

Joy isn’t a feeling that comes and goes. Rather, joy is a state of mind that is fueled by the hope of eternal life, 1 John 5:13. Yet, joy isn’t a recognizable attribute in every Christian. Your degree of commitment to the Lord will affect what spiritual fruit if any that is naturally displayed every day. Yet, free will causes many college students to partake in their own prodigal like experiences. Subsequently, until human beings hit rock bottom or when common sense returns, joy will be absent.

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope. 14 Personally I am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge and competent to admonish and counsel and instruct one another also, Romans 15:13-14.

The goal of any Christian is to put everything together so that a personal relationship with Jesus yields joy and generosity. The apostle Paul refers to this in the passage above. When anyone reaches this state, an assurance in God spreads hope to your heart. For those that continue their journey with God, joy and peace comes from a spiritual understanding of God’s promises, Philippians 4:6-7. As you draw near to God, may the love of Jesus result in joy and generosity.

by Jay Mankus

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