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A Gratitude Adjustment

In this age of the Coronavirus, inflation and war with Russia invading Ukraine, gratitude has been pushed to the back of the line. When the world you are living in is literally falling apart, it’s hard to acknowledge the positive aspects of life. Watching breaking news stories on cable only makes me even more depressed. Before any sense of appreciation disappears completely in 2022, a gratitude adjustment is essential to keep hope alive.

Then one of them, upon seeing that he was cured, turned back, [c]recognizing and thanking and praising God with a loud voice; 16 And he fell prostrate at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him [over and over]. And he was a Samaritan, Luke 17:15-16.

Today’s passage comes from a first century physician. Instead of giving medical details of how these ten lepers were healed, Luke appears to be baffled. Based upon the end of verse 14, “as they went, they were cured and made clean,” the anticipation in the minds of these ten men played a crucial role. While nine walked faster and faster as if racing to see who could get to the priest first, one leper stopped, looked down and realized that he was miraculously healed.

Then Jesus asked, Were not [all] ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was there no one found to return and to [d]recognize and give thanks and praise to God except this alien? – Luke 17:17-18

Perhaps the other nine men were so eager to resume a normal life that they forgot to thank Jesus. Meanwhile, the Samaritan leper, who already understood what it felt like to be under appreciated in life was moved by God. Jesus was sent to call the Jews back to repentance, not the Samaritans. However, like the Samaritan woman at a well in John 4, a spirit of gratitude filled each of their hearts. When you slow down enough in life to see where you’ve been and what God has done, gratitude is the first step toward healing and happiness.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 22: Consider

Listening to music first became a pre-game ritual for me in high school. Whether I was about to swim or run, the lyrics and sound of secular music pumped me up. Songs like Every Breath You Take by the Police and Changes by Yes prepared my mind for my next competitive event. When the soundtrack to Rocky IV came out, this tape made a permanent home in my Sony Walkman.

And again He says, My trust and assured reliance and confident hope shall be fixed in Him. And yet again, Here I am, I and the children whom God has given Me, Hebrews 2:13.

As groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship began to challenge my faith, I placed all my secular music in a closet and began strictly listening to Christian music. One of the groups that found its way into my Walkman was the Choir. Not just any choir, the Christian rock band known as the Choir. Consider is a special song that made me run faster as I jogged on campus.

by Jay Mankus

A Holy Christmas

When my parents moved to Delaware in 1976, a local Catholic Church about a half mile away was about to break ground. By the 1980’s, we moved from St. Mary Magdalene Church on Concord Pike to Holy Child. This was the church that introduced my family to the concept of a midnight mass. When my father was transferred to Ohio, another local church had an even better tradition. From 10-11 pm, Christmas carols were sung and the church service ended at 12 mid-night Christmas morning.

Who owe their birth neither to [c]bloods nor to the will of the flesh [that of physical impulse] nor to the will of man [that of a natural father], but to God. [They are born of God!] 14 And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth, John 1:13-14.

After years of worshiping Santa and presents, I discovered the reason for this spiritual holiday. When the church bell struck 12 am Christmas morning, the sound of this bell announced the dawn of a new day. Strike after strike, 12 total times, helped me to begin to make room for Jesus as a young adult. As my parents drove home from this annual mass, the words of O Holy Night struck a cord with my soul. These 2 hours each Christmas Eve helped me make the 25th of December a Holy Christmas.

John testified about Him and cried out, This was He of Whom I said, He Who comes after me has priority over me, for He was before me. [He takes rank above me, for He existed before I did. He has advanced before me, because He is my Chief.] 16 For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift, John 1:15-16.

Now as a parent, I haven’t passed on this tradition with my children. Instead we celebrate my sister Cindy’s birthday, play games around a table and watch Elf. Not quite the spiritual experience that I was forced to attend and raised with. Yet, there is time to write a new story. Time to reflect upon the meaning of this day of Emmanuel, God with us starting as an infant who would go on to become a Savior. Therefore, as this holy night arrives, set your heart and mind and things above to worship Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

How Can You Love Your Neighbor When You Hate The Person You’ve Become?

Clive Staples Lewis was an atheist and British writer before becoming a lay theologian. C.S. Lewis once contemplated the concept of loving your neighbor. The following quote reveals his thoughts. You are told to love your neighbor as yourself. How do you love yourself? When I look into my own mind, I find that I do not love myself by thinking myself a dear old chap or having affectionate feelings.” This same dilemma exists today as how can you love your neighbor when many people don’t like the person they’ve become.

Teacher, which [e]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.

Following a series of parables, Jesus is asked by a religious leader a spiritual question. “What’s the most important commandment?” Instead of de-emphasizing the other 9 from the most essential, Jesus divides the commandments into two parts. The first 4 commandments are based upon loving God with the final 6 focused on loving your neighbor. When Christians began to love God with all their hearts, soul and mind, the practice of religion turns into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. 40 These two commandments [f]sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets, Matthew 22:38-40.

When hearts grow cold, love stops naturally flowing out of human beings. If faith is not revived or resuscitated, this lack of love can slowly turn into self hatred for oneself. When sources for love dry up, there is no positivity that bubbles over on to the people you interact with daily. The longer this subtle decay continues, there is no inspiration to love friends and family. The key to loving your neighbor is to tap into the love of God, John 3:16-17. As individuals begin to feel and sense God’s love, desires to pass this on to others is restored. Unfortunately, healing take time. Just hang in there long enough for restoration to ignite your heart with the love of God.

by Jay Mankus

Remember, Remove and Refocus

Remember not the sins (the lapses and frailties) of my youth or my transgressions; according to Your mercy and steadfast love remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord, Psalm 25:7.

Darryl Worley released the song Have You Forgotten in 2003. In the years following September 11th, 2001, politics began to influence television. The more liberal and progressive that the United States has become, images of attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon are considered unfit for the eyes of viewers. Unfortunately, with each passing decade, public education is rewriting history so that America’s Christian heritage and founding has been erased from college and high school textbooks.

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 human beings can’t change the current path of the world, you can remove obstacles from your own life so that you can make a difference. The author of Hebrews uses the analogy of running a marathon. The longer this race goes on, the more hot, tired and weak you become. In the same way, invisible sins can weigh down souls so that individuals become entangled in a web of lies and lust. Until you begin to unload these internal or external weights holding you back, you won’t be able to experience spiritual freedom.

If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God, Colossians 3:1-3.

The apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter to those believers who need to refocus. After remembering that God has removed your sins as far as the east is from the west, Psalm 103:11-12, discard bad habits so that your mind can start focusing on Jesus again. Like a person preparing for a fast due to an upcoming procedure, spiritual focus starts by purging any reminders from your past life before knowing Jesus. When your mind is transformed by God’s Word, Romans 12:1-2, setting your heart and mind on things above becomes achievable. Remember, remove and refocus this fourth of July weekend.

by Jay Mankus

Let the Thief Steal No More

The Greek word for thief is κλέφτης. When translated into English, this term refers to a bandit, lifter or robber. Character traits include going into a stealth mode, taking something of value when no one is looking. In the biblical case of Judas Iscariot, he was the treasurer of Jesus’ earthly ministry. As donations began to flow in following a plethora of miracles, some scholars have suggested that Judas began to skim off the top prior to betraying Jesus.

When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. 27 Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]. 28 Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need, Ephesians 4:26-28.

In a letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul unveils a spiritual mastermind. Like the Joker in Batman, this archenemy will do anything in his power to win at all costs. If you go back and examine Matthew 4:1-11, this is exactly what the Devil does to trick Jesus into giving into temptation. Despite this failed attempt, every day the thief steals from followers of Christ. Using a series of subtle forms of compromise, the Devil is bent on seeing people of faith fall away from God.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)., John 10:10.

The disciple whom Jesus loved uses a similar expression to warn first century followers of this spiritual thief. As the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, the Devil has 3 main objectives daily. First, to steal the word of God sown in a new believer’s heart, Matthew 13:19. Second, to kill the dreams of those seeking to reach self-actualization, Jeremiah 29:11. Finally, to destroy any spiritual relationship, Luke 10:38-42, that will help uplift you when you fail. Regardless of your current circumstances, let the thief steal no more by covering your friends with a hedge of protection via prayer.

by Jay Mankus

Just What I Needed

As a teenager, the Cars became one of my favorite bands in high school. I actually met Rick Ocasek in passing, the lead singer of Cars, while walking through downtown Boston during a Spring Break in college. Ocasek wrote Just What I Needed in a basement at a commune in Newton, Massachusetts. While the inspiration behind this song varies depending upon the site you visit, the title speaks to human beings searching for a boost to get them through each day.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over. Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place, Psalm 23:5-6.

In the passage above, King David reflects back to his life as a lowly shepherd boy. This eloquent Psalm compares the responsibilities of a shepherd to how God provides for the needs of human beings. Whether you are in green pastures, having a great day or approaching the shadow of death, the Lord is all that you need to weave your way through life. While many search for love in all the wrong places, Jesus is just what I needed, Romans 10:9-11.

And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:19.

In a letter to the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul builds upon Psalm 23. Like a global retail chain, the Lord serves as a massive supplier to fill all of our needs. Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ disciples claims that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life, 2 Peter 1:3-4. While songs like Just What I Needed may meet an emotional need, God’s grace, love, and mercy is a spiritual gift from heaven, John 3:16-17. As individuals accept this free gift, Romans 6:23, hearts, souls, and minds come to realize that this is just what I needed.

by Jay Mankus

Receiving the Holy Spirit

William McDowell – Spirit Break Out (Lyrics) – YouTube

Every generation contains individuals who attempt to reinvent that which has already occurred. Whether as some sort of superiority complex or stubbornness, these confident people refuse to back down regardless of what others believe, proclaim or think. Participating in a debate to expose a specific flawed mindset seems to be a productive use of time. However, when the crowd you are trying to convince doesn’t budge, even persuasive words can’t turn a hardened heart.

O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?] – Galatians 3:1-2

In the middle of the first Century, a group of new Christians formed a sect to appease Jews who didn’t want to let go of following the Torah. According to the apostle Paul, a group known as the Judaizers infiltrated the Church at Galatia. Unwilling to let go of Jewish traditions, these religious leaders began to convince members of the church to add circumcision to salvation. Ingrained within many followers from birth, this new teaching spread quickly throughout the Galatian Church. Subsequently, Jewish Christians began to look down upon and separate from Gentile converts to Christianity. Thus, Paul rebukes leaders in the passage above.

Have you suffered so many things and experienced so much all for nothing (to no purpose)—if it really is to no purpose and in vain? Then does He Who supplies you with His marvelous [Holy] Spirit and works powerfully and miraculously among you do so on [the grounds of your doing] what the Law demands, or because of your believing in and adhering to and trusting in and relying on the message that you heard? – Galatians 3:4-5

In recent years, new debates often related to theology have caused divisions within the 21st century church. One common dispute involves receiving the Holy Spirit. Some denominations claim that this is only accomplished immediately following a believer’s baptisms. Other doctrines refer to a Day of Pentecost moment where individuals experience a similar outpouring of the Holy Spirit. When these two ideologies clash, I’ve witnessed nasty confrontations on both sides. Yet, according to the Bible, Romans 8:1-8 and Romans 10:9-11 highlight how people of faith can receive the Holy Spirit today. May this occur without any hesitation so that lives are transformed by God’s Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Let Light Shine Out of Darkness

The term light appears 272 times in the Bible. Meanwhile, there are 433 instances where light is eluded to as being “a lamp unto our feet,” Psalm 119:105. Beyond the physical element of light, the Bible uses light as a spiritual illumination of the truth. Thus, when the apostle Paul writes about letting light shine out of darkness, truth stands out in a dark and fallen world.

For God Who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts so as [to beam forth] the Light for the illumination of the knowledge of the majesty and glory of God [as it is manifest in the Person and is revealed] in the face of Jesus Christ (the Messiah), 2 Corinthians 4:6.

The expression to beam forth suggests that this light has supernatural powers. Instead of illuminating darkness so that human eyes can see, God’s light shines straight into our hearts, Romans 10:9-10. Similar to Jesus’ analogy in his Sermon on the Mount, spiritual light is designed to shine within your house and throughout your city, Matthew 5:14-16. According to Jesus, shining light via actions are more persuasive than words.

However, we possess this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and not from ourselves, 2 Corinthians 4:7.

Jesus foretold of a time when you could worship God face to face, not just in a temple on the Sabbath. The apostle Paul builds upon this concept in a letter to the Church at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20. Paul compares human bodies to a spiritual temple. While there are always glimpses of darkness within every soul, Matthew 6:23, eyes are the lamp of bodies. If your eyes remain stay focused on God, light can still shine out of darkness.

by Jay Mankus

Keeping the Faith

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

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

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

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

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

by Jay Mankus

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