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Write It Out in Plain Sight

John Heywood wrote “A Dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue” in the 1500’s. The printing of this book is the first known author to address the concept “out of sight out of mind”. As God called Moses to write out what the Jewish faith refers to the Second Law, the book of Deuteronomy serves as a refresher to anyone who may have forgotten one of God’s laws. Understanding the shortcomings of human beings, God’s plan was to write out in plain sight to overcome the reality of out of sight out of mind.

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord [the only Lord]. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with your entire being and with all your might. And these words which I am commanding you this day shall be [first] in your [own] minds and hearts; [then] Deuteronomy 6:4-6.

In the passage above, the Holy Spirit leads Moses to take the first commandment and write it out in such a way to help people understand how to love an invisible God. This is accomplished by putting everything you have which includes all your heart, soul and mind. Don’t just say follow and keep this commandment, but demonstrate this through action as love flows out of your heart. Part of Jesus’ teaching is that you will know my followers by their love, John 13:34-35.

You shall whet and sharpen them so as to make them penetrate, and teach and impress them diligently upon the [minds and] hearts of your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets (forehead bands) between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates, Deuteronomy 6:7-9.

Unfortunately, we live in a fallen society that seems to become more corrupt and darker with each passing generation, 1 Peter 2:11-12. Despite this reality, writing out inspirational verses of the Bible on a note card or sticky note gives your a reminder of what you should shoot for in life. While perfection is unachievable in our mortal bodies, writing out what is admirable in plain sight, Philippians 4:8-9, provides a daily goal and vision for the future.

by Jay Mankus

Fitness for the Soul

Prior to the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, there were 41,370 fitness centers in the United States. Depending upon where you live, most of these local gyms are in walking distance or less than 10 miles from where your reside. Whether you prefer exercise bicycles, treadmills or lifting weights, if you want to get in shape prices often range from $10-20 per month. If you need a friend to hold you accountable, most facilities often a special rate for guests. If you can’t afford this, there are always local parks with fitness trails with detailed instructions to follow for you to remain fit.

For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

In his first letter to a teenager pastor, the apostle Paul wanted Timothy to not get caught up in physical fitness. While exercise is needed to stay in shape, fitness for your soul is much more important in the long run. Paul ends his first letter to Timothy with an illustration of what spiritual fitness resembles, 1 Timothy 6:11. The pursuit of happiness is an honorable quest, but fitness for the soul begins by pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Along the way, fight the good fight as you strive to emulate Jesus.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-2.

The author of Hebrews adds a different dimension to fitness for the soul in the passage above. As you work out physically and spiritually, remember the advice passed on to you by former coaches, mentors and teachers. If parts of your life begin to spin out of control, unload everything that is tripping you up or weighing you down. As you do this, keep your eyes focused on the cross since when runners get tired, the first thing that occurs is that heads slouch, forcing eyes to stare at the ground. If you keep your eyes fixed on the finish line, God will give you the vision to maintain fitness for your soul.

by Jay Mankus

The Discipline of Believers

As a former teacher at a Christian school, every human being needs discipline. Upon my first day in a classroom, I made the assumption that these kids were all raised in Christian home. When I observed unruly behavior day after day, I was forced to alter my classroom management style. As a rookie in the area of discipline, I struggled to maintain control and order in my first semester. This painful experience led me to understand the need for disciplining believers.

For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward]. 27 [There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God], Hebrews 10:26-27.

The author of Hebrews addresses individuals who constantly cheapened God’s grace. There was an ungodly belief that spread throughout the first century that the more you sinned, the more God would pour out his grace upon you. This topic is first brought up in Hebrews 6:4-6, warning careless believers of the dangerous path they are going down. Four chapters later, the passage above serves as a grave warning for anyone heading toward the gates of hell. Perhaps this in the Bible’s version of scaring sinners straight back to the narrow path, Matthew 7:13-14.

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; For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes. You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline? – Hebrews 12:5-7

Following the chapter known as the Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11, the author returns to the reason why discipline is necessary. As you go through life, compared to a marathon, certain aspects will where you down over time. Subsequently, when you find yourself falling away from God, correction and discipline is a form of love. As I once taught to my junior high students, biblical boundaries are designed to keep you close to God while keeping dangers and evil out. While no one like to be disciplined in public, this is a necessary for believers to get back on the narrow road which leads to heaven.

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

Sharpen or Shy Away

King Solomon compares relationships to the work of a blacksmith, Proverbs 27:17. Just as iron sharpens iron so that a farmer’s plow can dig through arid soil, human relationships need the same kind of attention. No one likes their flaws, imperfections, and weaknesses exposed, Romans 3:10-12, but if you want to reach self actualization, this painful process is necessary.

If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses, Matthew 18:15-16.

One of Jesus’ disciples builds upon this concept in the context of a church. Whether you are wronged or a friend sins against you, the most mature manner to handle this is to meet privately with this individual. If you do and this person doesn’t listen, bring two responsible believers into this situation. If this rebellious soul isn’t willing to change, take this situation to your church so that a resolution can be found.

If he pays no attention to them [refusing to listen and obey], tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you forbid and declare to be improper and unlawful on earth must be what is already forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit and declare proper and lawful on earth must be what is already permitted in heaven, Matthew 18:17-18.

Unfortunately, most people shy away from conflict. Instead of being used by God to sharpen one’s faith, wayward offenders become dull, drifting away from God. If you really love someone, correcting and disciplining wrong actions is beneficial for both parties. Thus, each day you have the choice to sharpen or shy away. The next time you have the opportunity to act, remember the words of James 5:20.

by Jay Mankus

Your Love

Depending upon the Bible that you read, the word love appears 310 times in the original King James Version. As newer translations have been created, anyone who reads the New International Version, love is mentioned 551 times. If you dig deeper, these passages refer to one of five different types of love. The Hebrew word Ahab and four Greek terms: Agapao, Agape, Phileo, and Eros. Each of these express love from either God’s perspective (unconditional), family oriented (brotherly) or selfish (sensual).

And this I pray: that your love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight [that your love may display itself in greater depth of acquaintance and more comprehensive discernment], Philippians 1:9.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul refers to love in action. One of the ways Christians demonstrate love is by praying for other people. While writing a letter to a specific church with fond memories, Paul directs his prayer toward their love. Paul’s prayer focuses on a two fold display of love. First, to develop a greater depth of acquaintance, perhaps seeing other people as God sees and loves them. Finally, to deepen one’s comprehension and discernment of God’s unconditional love.

So that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value [recognizing the highest and the best, and distinguishing the moral differences], and that you may be untainted and pure and unerring and blameless [so that with hearts sincere and certain and unsullied, you may approach] the day of Christ [not stumbling nor causing others to stumble], Philippians 1:10.

As Paul’s letter to Philippi continues, Paul shares his goal for the spiritual growth of these believers. Instead of rambling on and on in prayer, Paul’s mind is laser focused. These expectations set a high bar to follow, but how your love is lived out can change a family, neighborhood or place of work. Following the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, many apostles lived each day as if Jesus was going to return before nightfall. This mindset began to fulfill the Great Commission, Mark 16:15 and transformed the way Christian’s love.

by Jay Mankus

An Unreserved Approach to God

Approach refers to draw closer; to come very near to. Prior to coming to faith, I viewed God as the great disciplinarian. Growing up in a Roman Catholic Church, God’s grace, love, and mercy was foreign to me. Thus, I developed an Old Testament perspective, one of judgment and wrath. I never felt good enough or worthy to approach God. Until joining a Methodist Youth Group in high school, I couldn’t comprehend an unreserved approach to God.

In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear). 13 So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you. 14 For this reason [seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 3:12-14.

As the apostle Paul began to meet other Jewish converts to Christianity, a similar mindset prevented many from drawing near to God. The passage above serves as encouragement, opening the door to what is possible for those who believe in Jesus. Instead of allowing doubt to reign in your head, dare to have the boldness, courage, and confidence to approach God. When the presence of fear is removed, an unreserved approach to God is possible.

For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. 16 Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it], Hebrews 4:15-16.

The passage above connects the Old Testament with the realization of the Messiah in the New Testament. Rather than continue in the ways of Mosaic Law to atone for sin, the author of Hebrews refers to Jesus as a great High Priest. This symbolism fulfills the words of Moses in Leviticus 17:11 which grants access to the throne of God. Part of the good news about Jesus Christ is that those who believe are granted permission to an unreserved approach to God. Take advantage of this new access, Romans 5:1-2.

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

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

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