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Tag Archives: Mere Christianity

What the World Needs

One of the favorite weeks of the year as a teacher was attending the annual youth leadership conference. As a member of the Spiritual Life Committee, serving as chaperone for this event gave me the opportunity to recognize and encourage student leaders to follow God’s calling. These events introduced me to cutting edge curriculum designed by Summit Ministries. During one decade, I was blessed to participate in work shops led by Dr. Jeff Meyers and John Stonestreet. During my final year of attending, I was challenged to stop judging the world by engaging our culture with the living Word of God.

Now while Paul was awaiting them at Athens, his spirit was grieved and roused to anger as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned and argued in the synagogue with the Jews and those who worshiped there, and in the marketplace [where assemblies are held] day after day with any who chanced to be there, Acts 17:16-17.

Stonestreet’s best lesson focused on the apostle’s initial visit to Athens. Despite being discouraged and grieved by a city full of idols, Paul tried to find something positive. Based upon the passage below, Paul identified a point of reference, an altar dedicated to an unknown god. Following a similar method of apologetics used by C.S. Lewis in the second portion of Mere Christianity, Paul establishes a common ground. Instead of preaching a message of condemnation, Paul compliments the citizens of Athens, referring to them as religious. Paul also quotes a poet who refers to being an offspring of God. This is what the world needs to hear.

So Paul, standing in the center of the Areopagus [Mars Hill meeting place], said: Men of Athens, I perceive in every way [on every hand and with every turn I make] that you are most religious or very reverent to demons. 23 For as I passed along and carefully observed your objects of worship, I came also upon an altar with this inscription, To the unknown god. Now what you are already worshiping as unknown, this I set forth to you, Acts 17:22-23.

In the aftermath of the George Floyd’s unnecessary death at the hands of a white police officer, buildings, local businesses and vehicles have been set ablaze in Minnesota. As riots continue to spread to other major metropolitan cities, anger over Floyd’s death has fueled this outage. As African Americans, minorities and protesters seek justice for this hate crime, time will tell what the future holds. As for now, cooler heads must prevail. If this country wants to continue it’s reputation as the great American melting pot, we must come together to discover what we have in common. When common beliefs and ideals are embraced, Americans can unite over the freedoms laid out in the Bill of Rights.

by Jay Mankus

The Desires of the Spirit

From my own personal experiences, many of the so called “spirit filled” churches that I have attended over emphasize certain spiritual gifts. Instead of teaching the desires of God’s Spirit, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gift of prophecy and speaking in tongues overshadow what God desires. Thus, I find myself as an adult who lacks the knowledge and spiritual insight to keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit, Romans 8:5.

When the concept of the Holy Spirit was first introduced to his disciples, Jesus refers to this Holy Ghost as a Counselor. Synonyms for counselor include advisor, confidant, guide and mentor. If this was Jesus’ ultimate goal, then I have been misinformed about the role of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, I need to simplify my understanding to an invisible counselor who yearns for me to become aware of the desires of God’s Spirit.

But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future], John 16:13.

The apostle Paul has provided a list below to visualize what God prefers. These fruits of the Spirit are desired actions, behaviors and character traits that Christians should seek to obtain. Mere Christianity written by C.S. Lewis contains two types of virtues, with the second only accessible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Cardinal virtues such as prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice are qualities that anyone can possess. Yet, the theological virtues of charity, hope and faith are limited to Christians.

But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, 23 Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus (the Messiah) have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires.

According to Paul, sinful appetites, desires and passions keep many individuals from every fulfilling the desires of the Spirit. Until your human flesh is crucified, dying to self, the ability to produce spiritual fruit is hindered. This may explain why many regions of the world are filled with darkness, void of any spiritual life. If you want to add flavor to the lives of those who you come in contact with daily, follow Paul’s advice by pursuing the desires of the Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

World Mental Health Day

This year’s day to recognize global mental health is Thursday October 10th. World Mental Health Day was first celebrated in 1992 as an initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health. More than 150 countries take part is this day to bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on peoples’ life worldwide. Leaders in Australia feel so strongly about this issue that an entire week is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace, Romans 8:5-6.

Unfortunately, most of the curriculum, education and programs will steer clear of biblical principles. Yet, this provides me an open door to examine what the Bible has to say about mental health. The apostle Paul claims the biggest obstacle to achieving a mind at peace is fleshly desires which crave instant gratification. This internal force must be brought under control and tamed by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word [the message, the basis] of faith which we preach— because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation, Romans 10:8-10.

According to C.S. Lewis, the Holy Spirit is only accessible to those who have entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Mere Christianity details Cardinal and Theological Virtues. Cardinal virtues include prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude. These traits are available to everyone who strides to obtain mental health. Yet, access to the Theological virtues of charity, hope and faith is limited to active believers in Jesus. Therefore, if you want to truly celebrate mental health, embrace Jesus.

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

Beyond the Golden Rule

Traces of a golden rule can be found in the early 17th century. The first usage of this term in the context of the Bible appears to occur in 1604.
Anglican preachers and theologians from Great Britain are credited for coining this expression. Charles Gibbon and Thomas Jackson are the first to paraphrase the words of Jesus with a succinct command: treat others the way you would want them to treat you.

Then one of the scribes [an expert in Mosaic Law] came up and listened to them arguing [with one another], and noticing that Jesus answered them well, asked Him, “Which commandment is first and most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first and most important one is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength,’ Mark 12:28-30.

After listening to a sermon last weekend on this topic, there is a flaw to the golden rule. It’s impossible to love others unless you first possess the love of God within your heart. C.S. Lewis refers to this concept as Theological Virtues in his book Mere Christianity. Anyone has access to Cardinal Virtues like prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude. However, theological virtues such as hope, faith and charity are only accessible via the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the only way to successfully live out the golden rule involves entering a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 5:1-5.

This is the second: ‘You shall [unselfishly] love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Admirably answered, Teacher; You truthfully stated that He is One, and there is no other but Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to [unselfishly] love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices,” Mark 12:31-33.

The apostle Paul provides a few verses that support this theory. Philippians 2:4 encourages individuals to look to the interests of others. However, unless you take care of your own needs first, you won’t be able to help and love others if your own spiritual house isn’t in order. Meanwhile, Paul also explains how to go beyond the golden rule in Romans 15:2. Pleasing your neighbor is expected through random acts of kindness. However, if you want to go the extra mile, build up your neighbor spiritually. Therefore, if you want to go beyond the golden rule, make it your ambition to plant spiritual seeds daily.

by Jay Mankus

Finding Answers in a Loss

At the end of last year, my daughter and I joined a volleyball league. Every Friday night until April, I am able to compete for an hour. While the initial reason for participating was to allow my daughter to sharpen her skills during the offseason, I find myself outclassed by much younger and athletic individuals. The ultimate purpose of any sport is to determine who is the best. Thus, when you lose more than you win, human nature begins to search for answers to explain why your team lost.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.,” Matthew 5:4.

In her 2017 song Can’t Live Without, Hollyn sings about someone who doesn’t know what they are chasing after. Using the context of a person driving in rush hour, sometimes you are so busy that lose sight of where you are actually going. Near the end of the lyrics, there is a transition which struck a nerve, ” Some people gotta lose it all to find out what they really want.” Progress, success and victory doesn’t require any need for reflection as positive momentum breeds confidence. Yet, embarrassment, failure and losing leads souls to ponder why.

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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me., 2 Corinthians 12:9

As a former professional athlete, I hate to lose, even if it’s playing a board game with my family at home. However, my desire to win takes joy away from competing. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis states if you get rid of competition, you eliminate pride. Thus, if you take your focus off of winning and turn it toward savoring the opportunity, it doesn’t matter what the final outcome or scoreboard reads. Thanks to Hollyn’s song, I am now able to see the big picture, a father who is able to spend quality time with his daughter. While our team’s record may be mediocre, I have found an answer in a loss.

by Jay Mankus

Within the Grasp of the Human Mind

Modern scientists tend to gravitate toward atheism, trusting only that which they can prove via science.  Others follow a similar path to C.S. Lewis, abandoning a childhood faith, encouraged by higher education professors who do not believe that God exists.  A more recent example is Lee Strobel, a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Daily Herald, eager to prove that Christianity is a fraud.  Strobel’s testimony can be found in the book and now movie The Case for Christ.  Regardless of what so called experts, the media and scholars proclaim, the answer to the meaning of life is within the grasp of the human mind.

“Those laws (of nature) are within the grasp of the human mind; God wanted us to recognize them by creating us after his own image so that we could share in his own thoughts,” Johannes Kepler in 1599.

During a trip to the new Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, I found this to be true.  On the second floor, Level 2, this exhibit is entitled the Impact of the Bible.  Like a living history book, there are hundreds of quotes from Colonists, Pilgrims, founding fathers, former presidents and past leaders of the United States.  Yet, other displays extend beyond our borders, documenting famous individuals in their fields throughout the world.  Two of the most intriguing comments come from a former astronomer and mathematician listed above and below.  Without mentioning scripture, each man appears to be referencing the invisible qualities of God, Romans 1:20.

“If the sacred scribes had had any intention of teaching people certain arrangements and motions of the heavenly bodies… then in my opinion they would not have spoken of these matters so sparingly, Galileo Galilei in a 1615 letter to the Grand Duchess of Christiana.

During his own letter to the church of Rome, the apostle Paul suggests that no should claim, “I didn’t know?”  Rather, the creation of the world reveals God’s invisible attributes.  A sunrise, the sun setting over an ocean and a rainbow following a storm are clear signs of a mastermind.  C.S. Lewis devotes the first section of Mere Christianity eluding to the Law of Human Nature.  While Lewis does highlight objections to this law, his words support what Galileo and Kepler have written.  If only human beings slowed down this Christmas season and stopped what they are doing for a moment, Psalm 46:10, the answers to the meaning of life are within the grasp of the human mind.  This revelation is just a prayer away.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Jesus Check List

For the past 25 years, Thanksgiving serves as a dual purpose for my family.  The first is obvious, to reconnect, reflect and share how the past year has gone, either good, bad or indifferent.  The second is a precursor to Christmas, exchanging gift wish lists.  Thanks to Amazon, most of this is done online to avoiding writing down the same list several times on a piece of paper.  Nonetheless, as Christmas Day approaches, there is an internal list with decorations, gift wrapping and preparations that need to completed before you can actually enjoy Jesus’ birthday.

For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations],” Romans 10:10-11.

A 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman introduced another kind of list.  The Bucket List involves two men who have been each diagnosed with terminal cancer.  After meeting in the hospital for the first time, the billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole played by Nicholson finances a series of trips before each man dies.  In a race against the clock, these men invest their energy doing the things in life they always wanted to do, but never took the time.  Since the initial release of the Bucket List, several # movements have transformed others on the verge of death to pursue their own check list of dreams and goals to accomplish.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you], Romans 12:1-2.

My favorite list is one that gets little attention, but results in eternal rewards, the Jesus Check List.  Instead of going through life focusing on the things you want to experience, the Jesus Check List is based upon fulfilling God’s will for your life.  Before you can start this list, you need to join Jesus’ team as described by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:10-11.  The moment you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you gain access to the Holy Spirit.  C.S. Lewis refers to this as theological virtues in Mere Christianity, enabling new converts to obtain charity, faith and hope as you progress down Jesus’ Check List.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God [which represents all that Jesus Christ is and does], so that you will know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have eternal life. 14 This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us, 1 John 5:13-14.

As individuals begin to daily prayer, read the Bible and begin to worship God throughout the week, not just on Sunday’s, lives can be radically changed if you stick with the Jesus Check List.  The apostle Paul refers to this as a process, offering up your life each day as a living sacrifice to God.  This involves asking God a series of questions in the form of a prayer.  What do you want me to do today?  Where do you need me to go to help others?  Who needs to be encouraged, give me eyes to see?  How can I reach the lost; using the God given talents you have blessed me with?  If you take this blog to heart, you will be well on your way, certain of the eternal rewards awaiting you in heaven with each day you commit to serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Baby Steps

Baby steps are subtle advances in progress.  In the early months following birth, babies don’t possess the agility and strength to stand on their own.  However, as soon as infants begin to figure out how to crawl, many become like run away trains, difficult to catch.  From a spiritual point of view, the first baby step requires gaining access to God.  This occurs when individuals place their faith in Christ, Romans 10:9-10.

Therefore, since we have been justified [that is, acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God] by faith, [let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God [and the joy of reconciliation with Him] through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed). Through Him we also have access by faith into this [remarkable state of] grace in which we [firmly and safely and securely] stand. Let us rejoice in our hope and the confident assurance of [experiencing and enjoying] the glory of [our great] God [the manifestation of His excellence and power], Romans 5:1-2.

According to the apostle Paul, the next step you should take is listening to and reading the Bible, Romans 10:17.  Paul felt so strongly about this baby step that he wrote a letter to one of his young pupils, a teenager named Timothy.  Like a stern teacher, Paul stresses the importance of studying to prove yourself as a workman for God.  Although the Bible is no longer a class or subject in public education, you must become a diligent student of the Word to handle it correctly.

Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth, 2 Timothy 2:15.

At some point along the way, everyone needs a mentor to guide you throughout life.  In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis warns individuals against getting ahead of yourself.  As you set out to accomplish a goal, success is not defined by reaching the summit.  Rather, success is the process of arriving, one step at a time.  Therefore, if you fall away from God for a period of time, don’t try make amends all it once.  Rather, like an adult forced to learn how to walk all over again, take life one step at a time.

by Jay Mankus

Bouncing Back from Defeat

Winston Churchill once defined success as going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.  I wish I was familiar with this quote during my final two seasons as a youth baseball coach.  I can’t remember how many games my team lost as defeat became of way of life.  Since these 2 teams only won 4 games, just one in my final season, celebrations were few and far between.  This likely explains Churchill’s emphasis on enthusiasm, learning from each failed attempt to ensure the same mistakes of the past aren’t repeated in future battles.

For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory, Deuteronomy 20:4.

In my first and only season as a head basketball coach, my players never experienced defeat, going 13-0.  The only time this team trailed at the half was in the city championship game, down by 10 points.  Clawing back in the second half, these players fought hard to send the game into overtime.  On the final play in overtime, my sixth man collected a weak side rebound, tipping the ball in at the buzzer.  When perfection is achieved, enthusiasm comes naturally.  Yet, as a coach, sometimes failure serves as a wake up call.  If a team despises losing, the fear of defeat motivates players to do everything in their power to ensure victory.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13.

Last Friday I received news that Hollywood rejected my latest screen play.  While this news should have been devastating, my soul was comforted by a Winston Churchill quote I heard on the radio.  C.S. Lewis defined success as the process of arriving in Mere Christianity.  A century earlier, Thomas Edison discovered 2000 ways how not to produce electricity before finally inventing the incandescent lightbulb.  If you can learn one thing from history it is that failure is a necessary evil to spur souls on to reach their ultimate goal.  As for me, I’m not sure if I will ever write a successful movie that is bought or produced by Hollywood.  Nonetheless, if I turn to Christ who strengthens me, my enthusiasm for writing will return so that my dream of writing one screen play per year in retirement may soon become a reality.  This is how I plan to bounce back from defeat.

by Jay Mankus

 

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