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How Bad Do You Want It?

To excel at a high level, many athletes join travel teams at an early age to maximize their full potential. Depending upon an individual’s commitment, desire and overall talent, coaches will push these rising stars to new heights. Parents will continue to fork over thousands of dollars each year with the goal of eventually earning a full college scholarship. The end result often relies on how bad do these student athletes want to compete at the next level.

Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?] 37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect), Matthew 22:36-37.

From a spiritual perspective, God uses free will to reveal who wants it more. Instead of forcing the earth to comply, God introduced the Ten Commandments to the nation of Israel in Exodus 20. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ opened the door for Gentiles to be welcomed into God’s family. For anyone who wants to excel spiritually, Jesus summarizes a primary goal: love God with all your heart, soul and mind.

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, 20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

In a letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul adds another element to how bad do you want to draw near to God. Paul suggests that human bodies are on loan from God. Thus, if you want to reach your full potential as a believer, treating your body as a living temple of God is essential. Those who want it more spiritually will separate themselves via fruits of the spirit. Since talk is cheap, time will tell how bad you want to please God?

by Jay Mankus

Under the Influence of Hypocrisy

The definition of under the influence refers to the capacity or power of a substance to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, and language of individuals. This phrase is often used in the context of driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Terms such as drunk, inebriated, intoxicated and tipsy are synonyms to describe someone who is under the influence of a foreign substance. If souls make a conscious decision to participate in this type of behavior, are there other spiritual forces that affect, burden or control minds?

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye, Matthew 7:5.

If you are like me, you probably know someone who lives by the motto, “do what I say, not as I do.” The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not reflect is hypocrisy. These type of individuals can be annoying, ruining a school or work setting. However, what if you reach a point in your own life where you possess good intentions, but you never carry out your convictions. Unfortunately, I find myself in this very predicament, under the influence of hypocrisy. I have become that which I despise.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen, 1 John 4:20.

One of Jesus’ disciples brings up a similar issue which began to occur during the first century. As new converts dedicated their lives from their past, sinful thoughts remained. Thus, while people could say they love God, many still harbored hate within their hearts, unable to forgive some people. In the initial portion of his Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, Jesus gives tangible examples of how to live out the 10 Commandments. During a debate with religious leaders, Jesus simplified these rules into 2 simple goals, love God and love your neighbor as yourself, Matthew 22:37-40. This is the only way I know to be set free from being under the influence of hypocrisy. If you still can’t break free, rely on prayer to rescue your soul.

by Jay Mankus

A Nation of False Witnesses

I was first introduced to the ten commandments through CCD, the Catholic version of Sunday School.  These ten standards were drilled into my mind as God’s expectations for human beings to follow.  As a young boy, I didn’t understand love or know how these principles would shape my life.  Yet, this portion of the Bible serves as the cornerstone for being civilized.  Anyone who adheres to the final six commandments follows the golden rule, treating others as you want to be treated.

12 “Honor (respect, obey, care for) your father and your mother, so that your days may be prolonged in the land the Lord your God gives you.

13 “You shall not commit murder (unjustified, deliberate homicide).

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal [secretly, openly, fraudulently, or through carelessness].

16 “You shall not testify falsely [that is, lie, withhold, or manipulate the truth] against your neighbor (any person), Exodus 20:12-16.

After attending seminary for two years, my understanding of the ten commandments grew.  Jesus’ response to a first century religious leader below highlights two distinct sections.  The first four commandments are focused on loving God.  The final six commandments emphasize loving your neighbor.  Within his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis refers to Cardinal and Theological virtues.  Anyone can follow the final six commandments if you are determined to do so.  However, loving God requires the Holy Spirit which is only available to those who enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-10.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].’ 40 The whole Law and the [writings of the] Prophets depend on these two commandments,” Matthew 22:36-40.

As I listen to cable news, talk shows and people throughout the course of my day, there is a growing crisis.  Either Americans don’t know the ten commandments, don’t care about these Old Testament commands or the searing of consciences has reached epidemic levels?  There are various mantras, narratives and talking points that are spewed daily.  If you change the channel or turn the page of a newspaper, these messages bombard human minds day after day.  When a different opinion or point of view is offered, attacks are made in the form of lies.  Maybe I am alone, but it appears that the United States is becoming a nation of false witnesses as both sides can’t be right  Perhaps, the ten commandments is the only thing that may reverse this trend by convicting souls to love God and love others.

by Jay Mankus

The Fundamental Basis for Law

Prominent founding fathers argued that the United States Constitution should not be ratified as it failed to protect the basic principles of human liberty.  This led James Madison to propose amendments to the constitution.  These amendments known as the Bill of Rights were inspired by George Mason’s 1776 Virginia Declarations of Rights, the 1689 English Bill of Rights, works during the Age of Enlightenment pertaining to natural rights and the Magna Carta, 1215.  Ironically, the Magna Carta would inspire American colonists a few hundred years later to declare independence from Great Britain.  Roughly one-third of the provisions in the United States’ Bill of Rights draw from the Magna Carta, particularly from its 39th clause.

“The fundamental basis of this Nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount.  The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings that we get from Exodus and St, Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul, ” President Harry S. Truman, 1950.

The 33rd president of the United States goes one step further, claiming that the foundation upon which the United States has based its laws comes directly out of the Bible.  As a World War I veteran and the Vice President to FDR, Truman who took office following Roosevelt’s death.  Under Truman’s leadership, World War II ended following the use of two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Less than a month after dropping these bombs, Japan surrendered.  Sometimes you have to use drastic measures to end worldly conflicts.  While Truman is still criticized today for this controversial decision, few will remember this president for his quote listed above.  Although modern historians glance over, ignore and suppress biblical influences on the founding of America, the Bill of Rights borrows from civil law within the ten commandments.

“Honor (respect, obey, care for) your father and your mother, so that your days may be prolonged in the land the Lord your God gives you.13 “You shall not commit murder (unjustified, deliberate homicide).14 “You shall not commit adultery.15 “You shall not steal [secretly, openly, fraudulently, or through carelessness].16 “You shall not testify falsely [that is, lie, withhold, or manipulate the truth] against your neighbor (any person).17 “You shall not covet [that is, selfishly desire and attempt to acquire] your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor,” Exodus 20:12-17.

The ten commandments contain two separate categories, loving God and loving your neighbor, Matthew 22:36-39.  The first four provide instructions on how individuals can honor and please the Lord.  The final six focus on civil laws or as Jesus details in Matthew 22, loving your neighbor as yourself.  This is the foundation of the Golden Rule, “treating other people as you want to be treated.”  In this day and age, educators, lawyers and politicians often try to make the simple complex.  Yet, Jesus simplifies the fundamental basis for law so that even a young child can understand.  Every day God offers free will, giving people the option to love or hate, forgive or hold grudges, overlook offenses or magnify sin.  The choice is yours, but I pray that the Holy Spirit inspires you during this Christmas season to develop an overwhelming desire to love God and those you come in contact with daily.

by Jay Mankus

Beware of the Weary Traveler

Drained, drowsy, exhausted, fatigued and spent are words associated with being tired and weary.  Depending upon your hobbies, occupation and physical fitness routine, energy can be released emotionally, mentally and physically.  Perhaps this is why the commandments reference loving God with all your heart, soul and mind.  Exercising each of these three aspects of the human body prevents the enemy, Satan, from snatching the good news of Jesus Christ from human hearts, Matthew 13:18-19.  The apostle Paul addresses this within 1 Thessalonians 5:23, urging his audience to prepare your spirit, soul and body for the second coming of Jesus.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up, Galatians 6:9.

Unfortunately, many good intentioned Christians use busyness as an excuse not to follow the advice of Jesus and Paul.  Yet, the longer any believer goes without praying, studying the Bible and worshipping God, the closer you get to the weary traveler.  This is a spiritual condition, not an actual person, where souls become vulnerable to demonic attacks.  Instead of resisting evil, weary travelers often contemplate forbidden fruits, entertain thoughts of doubt and open their minds to alternative lifestyles.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul urges his readers to hold on, press on and don’t give up on following the narrow path that leads to life, Matthew 7:13-14.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint, Isaiah 40:31.

In the days of the Old Testament, devout Jews grew weary of the ancient practices for seeking forgiveness.  Animals needed to be collected, trips to the temples planned and sacrifices made by a high priest to atone for the mistakes, rebellious acts and transgressions made by you and your family.  When you consider the blood, killing and smell left behind by this grueling tradition, its no wonder that Israelites in the days of the prophet Isaiah began to lose hope.  Receiving a vision from God, Isaiah compares the Lord to eaglets nurtured and raised by caring parents.  Thus, when you feel like you can’t go on any longer, let God carry you on wings like eagles.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Matthew 11:28-30.

Today, a week doesn’t go by without news of a Christian falling from grace, caught in a surprising act of sin.  These tarnished believers often follow the pattern found in 2 Samuel 11:1-4.  Just because you are a man or woman after God’s own heart doesn’t make you immune to sin.  Rather, when the spirit of the weary traveler enters your soul, anything is possible.  Just ask King David who didn’t feel like going to work one day.  This decision led to idleness, boredom and a wandering spirit.  One thing led to another and suddenly a righteous man commits adultery, get’s another man’s wife pregnant and gives order to have her husband left behind and killed.  This Old Testament passage should serve as a wake up call to all Christians who are on the verge of entertaining the weary traveler.

by Jay Mankus

Its Just Not Fair

The Bible contains two categories of commandments within Exodus 20:1-17.  Commandments one through four are focused on loving God.  The final six are classified as civil based upon how God wants individuals to treat one another.  During a first century conversation with religious leaders, one scholar tried to get Jesus to de-emphasize one of the commandments.  Sensing this trap, Jesus responds with one of the most famous lines in Scripture, Matthew 22:37-40.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.  Then, love your neighbor as yourself.”  This is the key to obeying the ten commandments.  Unfortunately, mankind is unable to obtain this goal due to the sinful nature.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

As a parent, trying to keep peace in a household of five is a difficult task.  Whatever I do, one of the three will cry foul and perceive some sort of favoritism.  While you may try to defend yourself like me when accused of a bias, I’ve learned that there is only one thing that I can say, “its just not fair.”  Instead of instilling this fact of life within education, Common Core Curriculum is setting children up for failure when they reach the real world.  I’m not sure what happened to Darwin’s teaching on survival of the fittest in public schools, but this concept does apply to the cruelness of life on earth.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere, James 3:17.

Failure is a weekly part of adulthood.  However, its how you respond to obstacles, setbacks and trails that will dictate your future.  Anyone can cry and complain, by casting blame and giving excuses, but what good is this?  Jesus’ earthly brother writes about embracing wisdom from above.  Those who look upward instead of inward will find hope, mercy and peace.  Those who can’t get over past mistakes will end up like the faithless Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years.  As you battle your own struggles with fairness, may you be drawn to Jesus’ two simple pieces of advice.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.  If you don’t apply this, you’ll come face to face with groans of “its just not fair!”

by Jay Mankus

 

All In; Not Just When You Feel Like It

Sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach, unable to eat everything that you put on your plate.  In the same manner, when individuals open their mouths, empty vows spoken without any action leave a trail of broken promises.  This is not the standard Jesus set for his disciples.  Rather, he challenged his followers to be all in, not just when they feel like it.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, Mark 12:30.

Based upon the interpretations of modern poets, song writers and the world, love is a feeling.  Worldly love changes from one day to the next, something that you can lose over time.  However, a biblical love is a willful desire, which requires everything you have.  While you may experience periods of fatigue, not 100 %, faith inspires the weak to dig down deep with all your heart, soul and mind.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me,                             2 Corinthians 12:9.

According to the lyrics of Stellar Kart’s song All In, “Its easier to be the crowd, to just fit in and not stand out at all; To make a case for apathy, and never risk a thing in case you fall and this is life and we all decide the stand we take and this is mine.”  This stanza accurately describes the stance most people take in this life.  However, God expects more of his children, to follow in the footsteps of the apostle Paul.  By praying the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9, even in your moments of weakness, Christ’s power can lead any willing soul to become all in.
by Jay Mankus

 

The Day God Said Adios

Usually, humans are the ones who question God.  Rants such as “how can a loving God allow my child to die or why do bad things happen to good people while the wicked continue to prosper” is par for the course.  Yet, have you ever considered that God is scratching His head up in heaven daily, trying figure out the actions of his children?  Disappointed by Israel, His chosen nation, one too many times, God finally had enough, saying “adios.”

According to Psalm 95:10, God’s patience wore thin.  Expecting the parting of the Red Sea to transform hearts for a generation, the Lord’s miracles were quickly forgotten.  Faithless acts, hungry stomachs and spoiled souls unleashed the wrath of God upon a generation, Psalm 95:11.  Essentially, God vowed not to let this disobedient generation experience the promised land.  Instead, the Jews wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, prevented from tasting a land filled with milk and honey.

This lesson is similar to the words of the prophet Isaiah 1:15-20.  When followers become distracted by sin, God tunes out their prayers.  Subsequently, the Lord is waiting for believers to humble themselves, admit their wrong doing and reason with Him in prayer.  Then and only then will you experience God’s blessings, Isaiah 1:19.  However, if anyone attempt to take a short cut, don’t be surprised if God says adios.

by Jay Mankus

An Anniversary Day Prayer

Eight teen years ago today, I took the plunge, walking down the altar to a new life with my wife Leanne.  Three kids, two states and  one adventure after another has etched fond memories of the past two decades together.  With marriages, relationships and vows not lasting as long as they once did, an anniversary day prayer is necessary to keep the flame of love alive.

As Adam learned eons ago, Genesis 2:20-24, finding a suitable helper isn’t easy.  Maybe this is one of the reasons why King Solomon continued to seek wife after wife according to 1 Kings 11:1-3.  Unfortunately, even one of the wisest men to ever walk the face of the earth forgot to consider how being unequally yoked would influence his own relationship with God, 2 Corinthians 6:14-15.  All you have to do is read Proverbs 19:13 and 21:9 to understand Solomon’s regrets about rushing into marriage.

With this in mind, I am thankful for waiting, watching and trusting God to provide a godly spouse.  Although each of us have our own imperfections, the Lord has guided our steps together as a couple, Galatians 5:25.  Whatever the future holds, I am grateful to a loving wife, 3 great kids and daily bread.  Prayer is what has held my family together, offering up loved ones to God and asking angels to keep watch when you are not around.  In the end, one of my favorite prayers is for God give me the wisdom of Solomon, the love of Jesus and  the favor of Joseph from Genesis.    May you find the same joy and peace that I have experienced over the last 18 years.

by Jay Mankus

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