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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

A Case Study in Religion vs. Relationships

Religion is an interest that a pursuer ascribes to as their supreme importance. This pursuit results in a particular system of faith as individuals believe in and worship a personal God or gods. Meanwhile, relationships are the way in which two or more people are connected and behave toward each other. Relationships can be traced back to a common alliance, bond, or connection based upon shared values. Religion tends to focus on teetotalism, a rigid following of a clearly defined set of rules. Depending upon your own personal desire, relationships can be kept at an arms length, drawn closer, or become intimate.

For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself, Galatians 5:14.

This case study begins with a first century sect referred to as the Judaizers. These Jewish converts to Christianity did not want to abandon their Old Testament heritage. Instead of focusing on their newly formed relationship with Jesus, the Judaizers overemphasized a strict adherence to Jewish customs. The leaders of this group convinced Gentile members of the Church in Galatia to become circumcised. Instead of following the apostles teaching in Romans 10:9-10, the Judaizers claimed that if you really wanted to be saved, “you need to to adopt Jewish customs and practices found in the Torah.”

But if you bite and devour one another [in partisan strife], be careful that you [and your whole fellowship] are not consumed by one another, Galatians 5:15.

The opposite side of this study is a woman who took relationships to the extreme. Unable to find love in normal relationships, Mary turned to prostitution, selling her body to unfulfilled men. Despite the money Mary made, the void in her heart remained. Instead of developing a physical attraction toward Jesus, a spiritual hunger was conceived. Eager to discover meaning in life, Mary becomes a follower of Jesus, trying to reconcile all the poor decisions of her past. Based upon the actions taken in John 12:3, Mary was closely listening to Jesus’ teaching. Perhaps a sign of contrition, Mary takes an expensive bottle of perform and anoints Jesus’ feet.

But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God), Galatians 5:16.

The passage above offers a solution to souls wrestling with religion verses relationships. While religion provides a sense of direction, relationships offer freewill to choose your level of commitment. According to the apostle Paul, there is an internal tug of war going on within your mind daily. Instead of feeling forced to go to church or behave in a certain manner, walk and live habitually in the Holy Spirit. As Christians begin to develop a permanent meaningful lasting relationship with Jesus, you will want to go to church, pray and read the Bible. When you embrace the freedom Jesus offers, faith replaces the need for religion. Thus, choose the abundant life Jesus promises by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

The Source of Affection

Love is absent from the title of traditional Christmas Carols. While Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843. the oldest Christmas Carol song dates back to 336 AD. St. Hilary of Poitiers composed Jesus Illuminates All which was initially the Latin carol “Jesus refulsit omnium.” Although it’s unclear what inspired St. Hilary to write this song, 336 was the first recorded year when the Church first recognized December 25th as Jesus’ birthday.

So I write these things while I am absent from you, that when I come to you, I may not have to deal sharply in my use of the authority which the Lord has given me [to be employed, however] for building [you] up and not for tearing [you] down, 2 Corinthians 13:10.

Wrapping up his final letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul recognizes why people of faith should celebrate the birth of Christ. According to Paul, Jesus is the source of affection and love. Building upon his words in 1 Corinthians 13, God is love in it’s various forms. While reading Psalm 98, 96:11–12 and Genesis 3:17–18, Isaac Watts wrote the classic hymn Joy to the World. George Frideric Handel put the finishing touches on the modern version of Joy to the World before his death in 1759.

Finally, brethren, farewell (rejoice)! Be strengthened (perfected, completed, made what you ought to be); be encouraged and consoled and comforted; be of the same [agreeable] mind one with another; live in peace, and [then] the God of love [Who is the Source of affection, goodwill, love, and benevolence toward men] and the Author and Promoter of peace will be with you, 2 Corinthians 13:11.

The older I get, the meaning of Christmas to me has evolved. As a child, Christmas was about attending a mass that ended at midnight. When I couldn’t sleep, I took a nap under our tree, eager to open my presents. Yet, now as a parent, I’m more focused on what I give. In college I wrote Christmas letters to encourage and inspire my friends. Now as a father, I feel compelled to give of my time after working 22 of the last 25 days. While my gifts may not always be well received, a relationship with God is the greatest gift of all.

by Jay Mankus

Letting Go of Your Past … One Article at a Time

Every year Americans clean out their closets, dust off belongings in their attics and go through old boxes set aside in the corner of a vacant room. Inside each of these containers lie relics of the past. From my own personal experience, it’s hard to let go of favorite pieces from my past. Despite being faded, warn out, and a little small, nostalgia has prevented me from letting go of the memories associated with these clothes.

Then Peter came up to Him and said, Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? [As many as] up to seven times? 22 Jesus answered him, I tell you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven! – Matthew 18:21-22

When it comes to forgiveness, everyone has a pre-conceived notion about the right amount. During a conversation with Jesus, Peter shares his opinion. Instead of adopting a three strikes and you’re out policy, Peter feels that everyone should get seven do overs, one per day. Taking this well beyond Peter’s answer, Jesus suggests that forgiveness should be an unlimited number. Yet, when you are the one who has been afflicted, hurt, and wronged, letting go of any transgression is just as difficult, if not more.

Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind). 32 And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you, Ephesians 4:31-32.

Apparently, the apostle Paul addresses questions about forgiveness in a letter to Ephesus. Paul goes into details about how not letting go of past transgressions affects your soul. As this spiritual baggage builds up, bitterness spreads. This is where the 70 x 7 equation comes into play. If God forgives you as far as the east is from the west, Psalm 103:12, this infinite amount of grace should inspire you to forgive others in a similar manner. Therefore, when you are able to let go of your past, you can begin to love others as Christ loves the church.

by Jay Mankus

What a Will to Love Can Do for You

Twenty five years ago I was initiated into a large family. At a Thanksgiving Dinner of nearly 100 relatives, I was a target of those who attended. “Wondering who is this guy who is going to marry Leanne,” I was introduced, interviewed, and grilled by complete strangers. After several hours of intense conversations, I passed this final test two days prior to our wedding.

Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive], Colossians 3:13.

A quarter of a century ago, God was just beginning to reveal a special gift in me. This talent was first unveiled while teaching poetry at a boarding school in West Virginia. Thus, as I was finishing up the final details of our wedding, I wrote a paragraph about what love meant to me. After a couple of edits, this appeared in our wedding bulletin. This statement served as a testimony about the importance of the will to love in marriage.

And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony]. 15 And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always], Colossians 3:14-15.

The best way to define a will is something that you are bound to. In the context of marriage, this is a covenant that you enter in, promising “til death due us part.” Meanwhile, the Greek word for charity is φιλανθρωπία. The apostle Paul writes an entire chapter devoted to love in 1 Corinthians 13, a common Bible reading for weddings. Yet, if you want your marriage to last a lifetime, a will to love is the secret to maintaining my marriage for the past 25 years. Wishing my wife Leanne a Happy Anniversary. I love you!

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Hold Anything Back

As a former high school teacher, I regularly witnessed actions of pausing or hesitating before saying or doing something. Most students were afraid to open up in class, often caving to peer pressure. While discussing hot button topics, some teens would be on the verge of letting their guard down. However, after looking around for a brief moment, many would immediately stop talking, holding back how they really felt.

Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians [we are hiding nothing, keeping nothing back], and our heart is expanded wide [for you]! 12 There is no lack of room for you in [our hearts], but you lack room in your own affections [for us], 2 Corinthians 6:11-12.

During the first century, the apostle Paul noticed a similar pattern. When surface level conversation turned the corner toward spiritual issues, members of the church of Corinth were afraid open up. Perhaps, uneasy about sharing their new found faith in Christ with non-Christian neighbors, spiritual momentum ceased. Apparently, Roman Christians possessed the same issue, ashamed or embarrassed of the gospel, Romans 1:16-17.

By way of return then, do this for me—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also [to us], 2 Corinthians 6:13.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul provides a disclaimer when evangelizing. This warning urges believers not to become unequally yoked with individuals who possess different beliefs, values and worldviews. Some scholars refer to the concept of missionary dating, getting involved with the goal of winning a soul over to Jesus. Yet, those who attempt this are often conflicted and may be led astray. Nonetheless, if you truly love someone who doesn’t know Jesus, don’t hold anything back.

by Jay Mankus

Christ is Greater Than

The greater-than sign dates back to the 1560’s. This mathematical symbol denotes an inequality between two values. The widely adopted form of two equal-length strokes connecting in an acute angle at the right was first discovered in documents in the 16th century. Yet, there is a first century book that uses an analogy rather than the greater than symbol.

He then goes on to say, And their sins and their lawbreaking I will remember no more. 18 Now where there is absolute remission (forgiveness and cancellation of the penalty) of these [sins and lawbreaking], there is no longer any offering made to atone for sin. 19 Therefore, brethren, since we have full freedom and confidence to enter into the [Holy of] Holies [by the power and virtue] in the blood of Jesus, 20 By this fresh (new) and living way which He initiated and dedicated and opened for us through the separating curtain (veil of the Holy of Holies), that is, through His flesh, Hebrews 10:17-20.

The author of Hebrews refers to Jesus as the Great High Priest. Using a reference from the Old Testament, Jesus is linked to the order of Melchizedek, Genesis 14:18-20. When you add these nicknames with someone who became a living sacrifice, 2 Corinthians 5:21, this is what makes Christ greater than any other god, rising from the dead.

And since we have [such] a great and wonderful and noble Priest [Who rules] over the house of God, 22 Let us all come forward and draw near with true (honest and sincere) hearts in unqualified assurance and absolute conviction engendered by faith (by that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness), having our hearts sprinkled and purified from a guilty (evil) conscience and our bodies cleansed with pure water. 23 So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we cherish and confess and our acknowledgement of it, for He Who promised is reliable (sure) and faithful to His word. 24 And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, Hebrews 10:21-24.

The passage above serves as a calling to respond to God’s gift, John 3:16-17. The thought of God’s demonstration through Christ should elicit and stimulate souls to act, Romans 5:8. If modern day Christians could simply love others as God has loved us, Matthew 7:12, a revival would begin. If it only takes a spark to get a fire going, Christ could become greater than ever if hearts illuminate love, grace and mercy.

by Jay Mankus

The Fervor of Faith

During a discussion with a woman at a well in Samaria, the topic of conversation transitions to worship. The woman refers to her descendants who worshiped on this mountain, pointing toward Mount Gerissim. Apparently, first century Jews were legalistic, belittling Samaritans for not going to temple at Jerusalem to worship God. However, Jesus points to a time in the future, following his death and resurrection, when individuals will be able to worship God in any place or time.

God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality), John 4:24.

In the passage below, the apostle Paul builds upon this concept. Whenever individuals enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, an intimacy develops. As faith increases, man’s relationship with God becomes a daily priority. Thus, faith isn’t something that you put back on the shelf and walk away from like a Bible. Rather, faith becomes part of you, growing into a fervor through a higher calling via the Holy Spirit.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith (your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! – 1 Corinthians 16:13

This Samaritan woman mentioned by John, one of Jesus’ disciples, is introduced as a restless individual, searching for answers to life’s questions. This journey led the Samaritan woman to look for love in relationships, leaving one man after another when love disappeared. However, when Jesus talked about living water, a spark was triggered within her soul. Hungry for more, John 4:39 reveals that a fervor for faith was conceived, leading her entire family to faith in Christ. This is the kind of fervor that we all need today.

by Jay Mankus

Keeping the Faith

Faith is derived from the Latin term fides meaning confidence or trust in a person, thing, or concept. Personal beliefs, convictions, and expectations add to someone’s faith. During his closing remarks in a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul brings up an overlooked aspect of faith. Referring to a spiritual element, faith is not only conceived but Christians must remain part of it.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith (your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! – 1 Corinthians 16:13

Perhaps, Paul learned this from one of Jesus’ disciples. In the passage below, the earthly brother of Jesus uses his own personal experience. Apparently, many first century Christian began turning their faith on and off like a light switch. When faith becomes dormant, it’s a sign that you have become disconnected from God. This trend suggests that your heart and mind is being controlled by your flesh, not God’s Spirit, Romans 8:5.

What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day, 16 And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 17 So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead), James 2:14-17.

When the apostle Paul commands followers “to keep the trust and holy fervor,” he is reminding believers that faith and deeds go hand and hand. You can’t have one without the other. Based upon first century historians, James did not believe that his brother Jesus was the Messiah. It wasn’t until the resurrection when James came to faith. Since life on earth is like a marathon, keeping the faith consists of abiding in and acting upon your love for Jesus Christ. May this blog inspire you to keep your faith active.

by Jay Mankus

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