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Tag Archives: minds

Having a Foot on Both Sides of the Fence

The term “on the fence” became a popular expression beginning in 1828.  The original context was applied by Carl Schurz, insisting on political independence, rather than appeal to everyone by sitting on both sides of an issue.  Not much has changed in the last 2 centuries as politicians have perfected the art of straddling hot button topics with one foot on either side of an argument.  In an attempt to dodge what individuals really believe, vague comments seek to win the approval of as many voters as possible.

To understand a proverb and a figure [of speech] or an enigma with its interpretation, And the words of the wise and their riddles [that require reflection].  The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the beginning and the preeminent part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; But arrogant fools despise [skillful and godly] wisdom and instruction and self-discipline, Proverbs 1:6-7.

From a spiritual perspective, the fence represents biblical principles.  On one side of this divider is the Bible designed to keep evil out by instilling commands, decrees and precepts from God.  This land is based upon a higher calling, to use abilities, gifts and talents to glorify God.  The opposite side consists of assumptions, elementary theories and worldly traditions.  This region encourages self gratification, indulgence and promotion.  These areas are polar opposites unless you want to fit in like a chameleon.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception [pseudo-intellectual babble], according to the tradition [and musings] of mere men, following the elementary principles of this world, rather than following [the truth—the teachings of] Christ, Colossians 2:8.

The book of Proverbs is designed to shed light on this issue.  As an earthly father looking back on his life, King Solomon attempts to bestow wisdom upon one of his sons.  Like any worried parent, Solomon sees the evil within the world that gradually bewitches, deceives and poisons the minds of teenagers.  Thus, Solomon wrestles to pen the exact words to keep his children on the right side of this invisible fence.  May the fear of the Lord serve as a guiding light to ensure that your own offspring follows the narrow path detailed in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:13-14.

by Jay Mankus

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From Heaven or Earth?

When my father was forced to transfer to Cleveland, Ohio to keep his job, I was introduced to cocktail parties.  If you want to move from the middle to upper class, I learned that these social events were a necessary evil.  These house parties enabled my parents to make new friends.  This group called New Clevelanders encouraged parents to bring their own college children to these functions as a way to network as families started over in a new town.  I quickly realized that colleges, degrees and majors provided surface level discussions.  If you wanted to fit in, going clubbing, drinking and partying were code names into this elite club.  I went along with the crowd for a while until conviction made it clear that I was living a lie.

Jesus replied, “I will also ask you a question. You tell Me: The baptism of John [the Baptist]—was it from heaven [that is, ordained by God] or from men?” – Luke 20:3-4

During the first century, Jesus began to debate religious scholars.  Raised in elite and wealthy families, these men were schooled by the best and brightest minds.  Meanwhile, Jesus who spent most of his life as a carpenter, void of any formal educational, drew much larger crowds.  Thus, resentment manifested in the hearts of these men, jealous of Jesus’ popularity.  This culminated in the passage above as Jesus uses John the Baptist to illustrate that authority can come from heaven, not just through earthly institutions.  Certain aspects, knowledge and qualities can only be explained as ordained by God despite what earthly wisdom may suggest.

They discussed and debated it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are firmly convinced that John was a prophet,” Luke 20:5-6.

During a breakfast I had with a friend in December, he marveled at my ability to come up with thousands of ideas for my blogs.  From an earthly point of view, my only credentials for writing involve teaching poetry at a boarding school.  This tangible experience ignited a passion for writing.  Nothing in my past pointed to a career in writing.  My English grades, grammar and vocabulary were average at best.  Yet, just as John the Baptist received a special anointing from God, the Lord has given me the gift of writing in the Spirit.  The more in tune with God I become, the deeper my blogs tend to be.  However, on occasion, I become unplugged, relying on earthly knowledge, struggling to come up with material for a week.  These phases are natural, a by product of human nature.  Nonetheless, while earthly credentials do lead to successful writers, I credit my heavenly father for Express Yourself 4Him.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Story Behind A Just Cause

To be just refers to being fair and impartial.  The Bible details God’s hatred of those who have been mistreated and oppressed.  The term civil refers to behaving according to what is morally right within a just and democratic society.  The story behind this concept begins as God uses guilt as a just cause to convict sin despite being invisible (before the actual act) to the human eye.

But each one is tempted when he is dragged away, enticed and baited [to commit sin] by his own [worldly] desire (lust, passion), James 1:14.

While individuals may be able to deceive other human beings for an extended period of time, the truth will come out over eventually.  Whether it’s an addiction, a crime or shocking act, the Bible reveals what happens inside the soul before the act of sin emerges.  Seeds are planted within minds, temptation waters these thoughts until desire, lust and worldly passion drags the next unlikely candidate down a dark path.

Then when the illicit desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin has run its course, it gives birth to death, James 1:15.

Sadly, headlines from the internet, newspaper or tabloids is the end result of the sinful nature getting the best of a weakened and vulnerable person.  After any fall, just as God sends guilt, humbled hearts open the door for forgiveness.  To those who comes to their senses, seeking reconciliation, the Holy Spirit moves toward the broken-hearted and crushed in spirit.  While this is often not seen in this light, God demonstrates a just cause by extending grace and mercy to the contrite.  May these words help you get over failure by embracing God’s forgiveness.

by Jay Mankus

 

Surviving Your Next Guilt Trip

Guilt is like an invisible lie detector test.  When human beings deny, exaggerate or lie, souls are awakened by pulses inside their body.  This reaction is triggered by consciences, an inner feeling or voice of truth.  The apostle Paul refers to this concept as the invisible qualities of God so that no one is without excuse, Romans 1:18-20.  The dilemma is not if your next guilt trip will arrive, but how will your respond when conviction starts gnawing upon your heart.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness [of sin], we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we [really] walk in the Light [that is, live each and every day in conformity with the precepts of God], as He Himself is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another [He with us, and we with Him], and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin [by erasing the stain of sin, keeping us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations], 1 John 1:6-7.

One of the objectives of the modern progressive movement is to de-emphasize absolutes by elevating personal opinions.  As lies are portrayed as truth by members of the media, gray areas expand resulting in a combination of confusion and rationalization.  If the Bible becomes discredited from endless attacks by atheist groups, future generations will look to other sources for moral guidance.  Perhaps, leaders want to return to the days of Old Testament Judges, where people began to do what was right in their own eyes.

If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose], 1 John 1:8-9.

The spiritual dynamic of guilt seeks to bring about humility.  Depression is a natural emotion created by God to make it painfully obvious that individuals can not follow the ten commandments on their own.  Thus, when guilt trips persuade hearts and minds to admit the error of their way, confession opens the door for hope, Romans 5:2-4.  Responding correctly to guilt, unlike Cain who killed his brother, enables contrite spirits to receive forgiveness, grace and mercy.  May the words of 1 John give you a blueprint for surviving your next guilt trip.

by Jay Mankus

You Don’t Want God To Leave You Alone

Inside of every human being, there is an alter ego like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Authors of the Bible refer to this as a sinful nature, the invisible force that persuaded a son to become a prodigal.  Regardless of how stable you may be, thoughts of rebellion occasionally drift in and out of minds.  For those who eventually embrace this concept, to ignore the advice of family, friends or guardians, you abandon those who care about you the most.  Nonetheless, disappointment, frustration or narcissism influences some to leave their previous life to start all over again.

After this he fell in love with a [Philistine] woman [living] in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. So the [five] lords (governors) of the Philistines came to her and said to her, “Persuade him, and see where his great strength lies and [find out] how we may overpower him so that we may bind him to subdue him, Judges 16:4-5.

On the other hand, there are other people who haven’t done anything wrong.  Yet, due to a series of accidents, mishaps and trials, these individuals get the feeling that God has abandoned them.  These emotions can lead to justification as minds ponder, “well if God left me, why should I stick around?”  Meanwhile, love has a strange way of changing human beings.  When you meet or see the person of your dreams, you will do everything in your power to make this relationship happen.  Some may exaggerate, lie or pretend to be someone else just to win the approval of the person you love.  Such is the case of Samson who ignored his parent’s advice about marrying a godly Jewish girl in favor of a Philistine named Delilah.

She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as I have time after time and shake myself free.” For Samson did not know that the Lord had departed from him. 21 Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with [two] bronze chains; and he was forced to be a grinder [of grain into flour at the mill] in the prison, Judges 16:20-21.

The longer Samson played this immature little game with his wife, any resemblance of integrity slowly disappeared.  Thus, at some point, the Lord left Samson who was spiritually unaware of God’s departure.  It was at this time when Delilah’s plot was successful, cutting all of his hair, the source behind Samson’s mighty strength.  Subsequently, Samson was bound to two pillars, lost his ability to see and forced to be a slave, grinding flower while imprisoned.  Despite this hardship, the presence of God returned according to verse 22, enabling Samson’s strength to be restored as his hair grew back.

Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this one time, O God, and let me take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes,” Judges 16:28.

Like the prodigal in Luke 15, Samson comes to his senses.  Instead of blaming God for his problems, Samson cries out to the Lord, seeking forgiveness and restoration.  As a few thousand Philistine guests mocked Samson’s arrest, giving praise to their god Dagon, the Lord agrees to answer Samson’s prayer.  While this meant sacrificing his own life, the Lord empowered Samson like the days of his youth, giving him the strength to carry out this mission.  If there is any lesson you can take away from the life of Samson, it’s that you don’t want God to leave you alone.

by Jay Mankus

Expecting God to Come Through One More Time

As a former high school teacher, I understand how and why students struggle to remember important information.  Depending upon the day or time, I could tell who was paying attention from those zoned out.  Entertainment, social media and video games has influenced this generation, resulting in a shortened attention span.  Unless students find a topic interesting, hearts, minds and souls drift off into space.  If attending school becomes a drag, getting teenagers interested in spiritual matters can be just as challenging.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor (respect) except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household,” Mark 6:4.

To a certain extent, the people living in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth became spoiled.  After his first miracle at a wedding in Cana, there was a growing sentiment that if Jesus just performed one more miracle, then people would believe.  This show me mentality is the opposite of genuine faith.  Perhaps, some individuals were jealous, not present for Jesus turning water into wine.  Thus, expecting God to come through one more time doesn’t seem unreasonable.

And He could not do a miracle there at all [because of their unbelief] except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. He wondered at their unbelief.  And He was going around in the villages teaching, Mark 6:5-6.

Nonetheless, a spiritual haze fell upon the citizens of Nazareth.  When you add this to the reputation of this town, even one of Jesus’ own disciples questioned if anything good could come out of this place, John 1:46-47.  Crime and poverty demoralized many who lived there, setting the stage for a show me, don’t tell me mindset.  Thus, Nazareth became like kryptonite to Jesus, unable to perform miracles when returning home.  John Mark states that Jesus was surprised by this inexplicable unbelief.  This spiritual state prevented individuals from expecting God to come through one more time.  Maybe this same condition is influencing Americans today?

by Jay Mankus

Haven’t You Heard…It is Written

A debate is a formal discussion on a particular topic in which opposing arguments are put forward.  In ancient Greece, philosophers went to the market place to exchange new ideas.  According to Acts 17:18, Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to engage the apostle Paul.  Trying to be relevant, Paul references an idol in Athens, quotes a famous poet and makes a reference to being an offspring of God.  When you don’t have much in common, its essential to find a starting place that will open the hearts and minds of a foreign audience to your point of view.

And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But Jesus replied, “It is written and forever remains written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God,’” Matthew 4:3-4.

Meanwhile, Jesus used a different strategy, especially when confronted by first century religious leaders.  In the passage above, a fallen angel, Lucifer, aka Satan tempts Jesus during his forty day fast in preparation of his earthly ministry.  Instead of using a rhetorical question on this occasion, Jesus simply says, “it is written.”  As a former archangel who knew God’s Word, Jesus corrects the deceivers request by referencing the Old Testament.  This didn’t discourage Satan, as he quotes the Bible, daring Jesus to use God’s supernatural powers for selfish reasons.  To finish this spiritual debate, Jesus uses the Bible to correct what Satan took out of context.

So then, if David calls Him (the Son, the Messiah) ‘Lord,’ how is He David’s son?” 46 No one was able to say a word to Him in answer, nor from that day on did anyone dare to question Him again, Matthew 22:45-46.

At the beginning of Matthew 22, Jesus endures an onslaught from Pharisees, Sadducees and religious leaders.  Like a fierce game of pin the tail on the donkey, each expert of the law tried to trick Jesus into making a mistake by de-emphasizing one of the ten commandments.  Beside using expressions like haven’t you read, Jesus answers each question with another question.  One by one, each religious leader left defeated, no match for the Son of God.  While no one possesses the wisdom of Jesus, if you find yourself losing a debate, reference the Bible by saying, “Haven’t you heard?” Then quote a passage of the Bible that relates to your discussion, “it is written.”

by Jay Mankus

 

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