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What a Spiritual Journey Encompasses

While a Christian’s faith begins with a public confession, Romans 10:9-11, the journey that follows is a life-long commitment. One New Testament author compares this to running a marathon in Hebrews 12:1-2. Yet, the apostle Paul provides an accurate description in the passage below of what a spiritual journey encompasses. This comes in the form of a prayer request so that Christians in Colosse reach their full potential.

For this reason we also, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased to pray and make [[g]special] request for you, [asking] that you may be filled with the [h]full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [[i]in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things—Colossians 1:9.

Part of this journey involves discovering your own spiritual gift, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Until these talents are manifested and or unveiled, you probably won’t know the direction or path to take in life. Perhaps, this is why the apostle Paul spent so much time praying for clarity, knowledge and understanding for God’s will in life. Unlike Dorthy who had a yellow brick road to lead her and her friends to Oz, the Holy Spirit is an invisible guide for Christians on this journey of faith.

That you may walk (live and conduct yourselves) in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and [j]desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God [with fuller, deeper, and clearer insight, [k]acquaintance, and recognition]. 11 [We pray] that you may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, [to exercise] every kind of endurance and patience (perseverance and forbearance) with joy, Colossians 1:10-11.

Yet, when everything comes together and the stars align, God’s goal is for Christians to conduct your life in a manner worthy of the Lord. In a letter to a teenager pastor, Paul calls this leader to fan into flame his gifts. Go forth and fulfill what God has called you to do in life. While I long to become a screenwriter in Hollywood, for now God is calling me to post a blog every day so that you may know what a spiritual journey encompasses.

by Jay Mankus

The Shedding of Sin

All snakes go through the process of shedding their skin. Every two to four times a year, shedding skin allows further growth of a snakes’ scales. Since older skin doesn’t grow while snakes grow, a new skin starts forming below the old one. Just as a snake needs to shed its skin to develop to its full adult size, Christians must shed sin to mature and become the person God wants you to be.

Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds, Hebrews 12:3.

As the Hall of Faith ends, Hebrews 11, the author of Hebrews uses the imagery of saints in heaven looking down upon modern day Christians. As human beings participate in the marathon called life, you will reach moments where you will need to start shedding the things that weigh you down. Just like a snake which sheds their skin, Christian must start shedding sins of their past and present.

You have not yet struggled and fought agonizingly against sin, nor have you yet resisted and withstood to the point of pouring out your [own] blood, Hebrews 12:4.

As another new year draws near, resolutions will be made to lose weight, start exercising and begin doing what you’ve always wanted to do. Breaking the chains of addiction, bad habits and poor choices can be grueling. Yet, as you start shedding sinful desires, you don’t have to die on a cross like Jesus. Nonetheless, in order to reach your full potential, the shedding of sin is part of the process as Christians seek to further God’s kingdom on earth.

by Jay Mankus

An Essential Part of the Process

Part of the current defund the Police movement is based upon removing discipline from America’s Justice System. Yet, as a former high school teacher, once you remove discipline from a classroom chaos ensues. As District Attorneys in major cities across the country continue to lessen the penalties for breaking the law, this has given birth to a Smash and Grab mentality. When major retailers have given up on certain unsafe locations, this highlights that discipline is an essential part of the process in life.

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 12:7

Whether you’re a coach, friend, parent or teacher, disciplining anyone isn’t easy. Proper discipline requires consistency and an immense amount of energy. If the person you are trying to help is defiant and not teachable, you’ll find yourself emotionally drained. Yet, when you say the wrong thing at the wrong time, this will likely hinder any progress that you’ve made in helping this individual. Tough love is difficult to display, but it is an essential part of the path to recovery.

Now if you are exempt from correction and left without discipline in which all [of God’s children] share, then you are illegitimate offspring and not true sons [at all], Hebrews 12:8.

The author of Hebrews compares life to running a marathon, filled with unexpected detours and obstacles along the way. Whenever you’re running, if it’s too hot, you may have to shed various layers of clothing along the way. Over the course of life, people tend to collect and gather unnecessary possessions that can weigh you down over time. Discipline may be used to help you distinguish what’s important from what you no longer need. In the end, parents resort to discipline to shape and train children into the people God wants them to become making this painful exercise an essential part of the process.

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

Born to Win

C.S. Lewis defines progress as the process of arriving in his book Mere Christianity. Meanwhile, winning is gaining victory in a contest or competition. If you are a perfectionist like me, you are probably keeping score of your wins and losses daily. However, if life is more like a marathon than a sprint, pacing yourself and participating in strict training is essential for success. If you believe in Romans 8:28-29, then you are born to win.

[But the Lord rebukes Jeremiah’s impatience, saying] If you have raced with men on foot and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? And if [you take to flight] in a land of peace where you feel secure, then what will you do [when you tread the tangled maze of jungle haunted by lions] in the swelling and flooding of the Jordan? – Jeremiah 12:5

If this is your destiny, it’s easy to become overconfident along the way. This complacency often results in poor training habits, becoming out of shape spiritually. The analogy above is designed to illustrate what you can handle and what you can’t. If you aren’t able to be competitive in a race against other men, you won’t have a shot at progressing to the next level. When you’re born to win, just showing up each day won’t get it done.

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; Hebrews 12:5.

Integrity is doing what’s right when nobody is looking. Therefore, being born to win requires added responsibility. The context of the passage above begins with an image of dead Christians, looking down from heaven, cheering you on as you compete in the race of life. The author of Hebrews encourages readers to keep your eyes on the prize, fixated on the cross of Christ. Just like keeping your head up while running maintains your momentum, keeping your eyes on heaven will secure victory in the end, 1 John 5:13.

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

Have You Been Knocked Down??? Perhaps it’s Time to Get Up

Living in South Jersey at the time, I remember my parents taking me to see Rocky I shortly after it debuted in theaters in November of 1976. Despite seeing this film 49 years ago, I still recall how engaged the audience was with Rocky’s character played by Sylvester Stallone. Beside the raucous cheering, total strangers bonded as the fight scene continued until the 15th and final round. Men and women began to cry out, “get up Rocky; get up!” Have you been knocked down in 2020? If so, perhaps it’s time to get up.

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, Hebrews 12:1.

While the Coronavirus has resulted in a living nightmare for countless Americans, the worst year for me was 2012. Before I could enjoying celebrating the start of a new year, I received a phone call on New Year’s Day informing me that my teaching position of 10 years would be terminated at the end of the month. This call was like a punch to the gut, knocking the wind out of my sails. Beside flying to California for Leanne’s uncle’s 80th birthday party, the next 18 months was filled with disappointment, heartbreak and unemployment.

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. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds, Hebrews 12:2-3.

At the time, I never thought this trial would end until I landed on my feet at Amazon. If 2020 has left you in the dark, clueless to where to go or what to do, you’re not alone. According to the author of Hebrews, Christians who have passed away are up in heaven cheering you on. Life is compared to a marathon like spectators at the Olympics encouraging tired runners to keep on going until the race is finished. Whatever your current circumstances maybe, don’t let pain keep you down. Rather, get up while there is still time to finish what God has prepared for you to do, Philippians 1:6.

by Jay Mankus

Get Your Mind Right with Belief

Doubt is a natural instinct which serves as a protective predisposition within human minds. Excessive inclinations to always doubt is a byproduct of success being rare and failure a normal occurrence. This hindrance to one’s life prevents individuals from reaching the level and potential God desires for you. If you find yourself reading today stifled by doubt, it’s time get your mind right with belief.

For I am already about to be sacrificed [my life is about to be poured out as a drink offering]; the time of my [spirit’s] release [from the body] is at hand and I will soon go free, 2 Timothy 4:6.

The context of the passage above is Paul’s final letter before his death. While in prison awaiting his death sentence, Paul writes to encourage a teenage pastor. When an expected outcome ends up falling apart in front of your eyes, maintaining a positive outlook on life is difficult. Thus, Paul reminds readers today that achieving life’s goals requires perseverance. Whenever you suffer your next defeat, carry on with a new found belief.

I have fought the good (worthy, honorable, and noble) fight, I have finished the race, I have kept (firmly held) the faith, 2 Timothy 4:7.

Like an athlete who leaves everything out on the field, Christians are called to fight to the very end. Instead of trying to sprint a marathon before burning yourself out, you must pace yourself in this race called life. As a former cross country runner, I always wondered why some of my opponents would sprint ahead of me before slowing down to walk. This doesn’t make any sense. In the same manner, if you want to get your mind right, do so with your heart and soul fixed on Jesus, Colossians 3:1-4.

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

Bring Me Back

Sometimes life is like being placed into a giant maze without a map.  Whenever you make the wrong turn, its like one step forward, two steps back.  As soon as you hit a dead end, you have to go back to where you started, retracing your steps to find a way out.  If you don’t have any helper, guide or visible signs, this journey will last much longer than expected.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it, Matthew 7:13-14.

The Bible serves as a road map to bring you back to God’s desired destination.  During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares life to a series of roads.  The most popular ones are like interstate highways, well defined and marked.  However, Jesus uses the analogy of a small path to illustrate the road to heaven.  Somebody has cleared the path, but if you stray off to the left or right, its easy to lose your way.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

The author of Hebrews refers to a great Hall of Faith, saints who have showed people the way to heaven.  Comparing life to a marathon, completing this race requires endurance and persistence.  When I get up each morning, I don’t always feel like doing the right thing.  There are plenty of days when I am exhausted, tired and worn down with little motivation to stay on track.  The group Evanescence sings about this state in their song Bring Me Back to Life.  This blog and song are dedicated to those who need to be brought back into God’s presence.

by Jay Mankus

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