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Tag Archives: New Testament

Under the Power of the Evil One

Whether you receive your news from cable, social media or local television, current events suggest that the world is falling apart. Beneath the surface, there are spirits of anger, hatred, and rage that result in chaos, violence and war. New Testament authors in the Bible point to a supernatural force that incites unknowing individuals toward evil acts. The apostle Paul provides a scapegoat: the fallen angel Lucifer.

We know [positively] that we are of God, and the whole world [around us] is under the power of the evil one, 1 John 5:19.

One of Jesus’ disciples makes a powerful declaration in the passage above. Members of the body of Christ know God without a doubt, absolutely through a daily personal relationship. Whether you fellowship with other believers, pray or study the Bible, faith results in spiritual clarity. Meanwhile, anyone who does not seek God end up falling under the influence and power of the evil one.

In which at one time you walked [habitually]. You were following the course and fashion of this world [were under the sway of the tendency of this present age], following the prince of the power of the air. [You were obedient to and under the control of] the [demon] spirit that still constantly works in the sons of disobedience [the careless, the rebellious, and the unbelieving, who go against the purposes of God], Ephesians 2:2.

The apostle Paul points to the Devil’s past. the archangel Lucifer who was kicked out of heaven. Despite losing his eternal destiny in heaven, this prince of the power of the air maintains his angelic powers. Ezekiel 28:14-15 details that 1/3 of the angels were banished from heaven along with Lucifer. These fallen angels now serve the Devil as real spiritual demons. This is the powerful force that is present on earth which corrupts human beings who aren’t strong enough to resist the power of the Evil One.

by Jay Mankus

Be Done with Every Trace of Wickedness

While the apostle Paul provides a general classification of the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21, other New Testament authors go into more specific aspects of wickedness. Jesus’ earthly brother refers to the process of temptation that wears down weakened souls, James 1:13-15. The disciple whom Jesus loved blames this on sensual desires, lustful eyes and pride in 1 John 2:15-17. These passages serve as warnings for Christians to be done with every trace of wickedness.

So be done with every trace of wickedness (depravity, malignity) and all deceit and insincerity (pretense, hypocrisy) and grudges (envy, jealousy) and slander and evil speaking of every kind, 1 Peter 2:1.

The decision to become a Christian is like committing to a new diet. Whenever you make a transition from eating whatever you want to healthy or full vegan, taste will be one of the greatest obstacles. When I served as an elder at Red Lion, one of our members went off to a cancer treatment center. This particular facility used natural foods to make human bodies less acidic. In the case of my friend, after 6 months on a rigid diet, he became cancer free. Yet, his roommate was unable to alter his eating habits.

Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; 23 And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], 24 And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, rejecting all falsity and being done now with it, let everyone express the truth with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one body and members one of another, Ephesians 4:22-25.

The apostle Paul applies a similar method to altering one’s lifestyle. Like a filthy kid playing in the mud all day, Paul urges new Christians to strip off their former nature. Whenever you hold on to bad habits and former addictions, traces of a wicked past will cling to your soul. This is when a divine intervention may be necessary. Like doing laundry once a week so that you can have clean clothes to wear, Christians need to practice Paul’s advice in Colossians 3:1-9 to remove your past and replace this with Jesus Christ.

by Jay Mankus

The Just Shall Live by Faith

Just refers to behaving according to what is morally right and fair. Yet, when I think of just, I envision someone justifying why they do what they do. Since I’m not an analytical person, I rarely contemplate the why in my daily life. Perhaps, this is due to a tendency to rely on feelings, what my heart is telling me to do or say. I don’t consider myself to be just. Rather, I follow my convictions with the Holy Spirit the wind beneath my wings as Bette Midler once sang.

But the just shall live by faith [My righteous servant shall live [f]by his conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it]; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him, Hebrews 10:38.

In the passage above, the author of one New Testament book examines how faith regulates the life of a Christian. Or should I say, what an active faith resembles. Beneath the surface, conviction from human consciences was designed by God to keep danger out by staying within the boundaries laid out in the Old Testament. When faith is great, fear shrinks as a holy fervor inspires individuals to pursue things that delight the Lord.

But our way is not that of those who draw back to eternal misery (perdition) and are utterly destroyed, but we are of those who believe [who cleave to and trust in and rely on God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah] and by faith preserve the soul, Hebrews 10:39.

Unfortunately, when human consciences become seared by actively indulging fleshly desires, it’s hard to go back to your life prior to becoming a prodigal. Sin has a way of entertaining you longer than expected, but leaves you feeling empty. This is the misery King David wrote about in Psalm 32:3-4. Before the darkness destroys what you have, respect your relationship with God. If you don’t have one, don’t delay so that you may begin the journey of the just who live by faith, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

The Guardian of this Galaxy

In 2014, director by James Gunn brought the Guardians of the Galaxy into movie theaters across the country. Seven years later, this superhero film based on the Marvel Comics have added to more films to this series. This team of unlikely superheroes travels the galaxy as arbiters of light. In the middle of the first century, a New Testament was in the process of being written that referred to a spiritual guardian of this galaxy.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten ([d]unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

The disciple who Jesus loved remembers one riveting evening. A Pharisee named Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, curious about the teaching he shared at local synagogues. Perhaps afraid of what his peers might say, Jesus talks to Nicodemus becoming born again. Following a sarcastic remark, Nicodemus stops speaking as the Guardian of this galaxy reveals the reason for his trip to earth.

And Jesus said to him, Today is [[b]Messianic and spiritual] salvation come to [all the members of] this household, since Zacchaeus too is a [real spiritual] son of Abraham; 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:9-10.

Two years later, Jesus became like a rock star as large crowds followed Jesus whenever he went. On one particular day, Jesus was passing by Jericho as lines of eager fans wanted to catch a glimpse of this spiritual guardian. One short man climbed a tree, doing everything in his power to get Jesus’ attention. To Zacchaeus’ surprise, Jesus takes time out of his busy schedule to visit his home. It was during this conversation where Jesus, the Guardian of this galaxy unveils his plan, “to seek and to save that which was lost.”

by Jay Mankus

A Shift in Focus

The difference between success and failure can be small. A fraction here or a fraction there often determines the final outcome. From a spiritual focus, those who dwell on their circumstances tend to become overwhelmed by fear. This is the situation in the passage below as Israeli soldiers focused on the size of Goliath, a physical giant compared to everyone else. Meanwhile, a skinny shepherd boy sent by his father to bring food to his older brothers noticed Goliath’s weakness. Not being circumcised meant that Goliath was beatable, not covered or protected by God.

And David said to the men standing by him, What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God? 27 And the [men] told him, Thus shall it be done for the man who kills him. 28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard what he said to the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David and he said, Why did you come here? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and evilness of heart; for you came down that you might see the battle, 1 Samuel 17:26-28.

Fast forwarding to the New Testament, the disciples found themselves in the middle of a storm. Unable to take shelter, the wind and waves battered their boat stuck on the Sea of Galilee. Despite just witnessing the feeding of the 5000, Jesus’ disciples began to fear. Instead of focusing of the God of miracles, these men focused on the current storm surrounding their boat. After spending time in prayer, Jesus took a short cut to Capernaum by walking across this body of water. Disappointed by their lack of faith, Jesus used his supernatural powers to take this boat immediately to shore.

[However] when they had rowed three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and approaching the boat. And they were afraid (terrified). 20 But Jesus said to them, It is I; be not afraid! [I Am; stop being frightened!] 21 Then they were quite willing and glad for Him to come into the boat. And now the boat went at once to the land they had steered toward. [And immediately they reached the shore toward which they had been slowly making their way,] John 6:19-21.

In wake of the Coronavirus, perhaps we all need a refresher course on faith. Hebrews 11:1-6 refers to having the assurance and confidence in an invisible God. Without faith it is impossible to please and satisfy God’s expectations, Matthew 16:24-26. Unfortunately, the moment tides change from blessings to adversity, panic causes many to shift their focus. However, the passage above is a reminder that as soon as you shift your focus from your circumstances toward the God of miracles, help is on the way. May this blog inspire you to shift your focus back toward the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

Acts 29

The title of today’s blog is a trick question. While I was a young Christian in college listening to a motivational speaker, he asked the audience to open their Bibles and turn to Acts 29. Most of the room was flipping through the beginning of the New Testament, unable to find this page or chapter. This search continued for several minutes until one bold individual spoke out, “there is no chapter 29, Acts only has 28 chapters.”

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth, Acts 1:8.

This pop quiz left many in the room embarrassed. As the speaker began his lesson, this opening question served two purposes. First, this man urged believers to become better students of God’s Word. Second, to view life in terms of an unfinished chapter of the Bible where God uses modern Christians to fulfill the great commission, Acts 1:8. This 60 minute speech made a long lasting impact on my life, instilling a desire to ascertain God’s will for my own life, Romans 12:1-2.

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:2.

To prepare for today’s blog, I did a search for Acts 29 for fun to see what I would find. To my surprise, Acts 29 is a diverse, global family of church planters who seek to carry on the work of the apostle Paul. This ministry is characterized by theological clarity, cultural engagement, and missional innovation as churches are planted throughout the world. One of my searches located beliefs and theories that Acts 29 is simply missing. Since Acts 28 does not reveal the outcome of Paul’s trial in Rome, common sense suggests there must be another chapter. Whatever the reason for this abrupt ending, may this blog inspire you to seize each day with a renewed desire to fulfill the great commission.

by Jay Mankus

More Than A Feat… It’s a Way of Life

Prior to Fed Ex, UPS and the United States Postal Services, important messages were delivered by a single individual.  Some traveled by boat, others used horses and during the Industrial Revolution via train.  However, in the Old Testament, messengers relied on less conventional methods, camels, donkeys or sandals by foot.  Perhaps, this explains the comment below by a prophet upon receiving good news.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns,” Isaiah 52:7.

The New Testament refers to feet in the context of spiritual armor.  One of the pieces of Roman armor consisted of special shoes with cleats to dig into the ground.  This enabled soldiers to stand their ground when attacked.  The symbolism of these shoes suggests that when your footing is secure, your feet are ready to deliver the gospel of peace.  As faith matures, individuals develop a spiritual hunger, eager to spread the good news about Jesus Christ.

And having strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news], Ephesians 6:15.

To a certain extent, the content of your daily conversations reveal your spiritual readiness.  If you are like me, I experience many ebbs and flows, often hot and cold spiritually.  As you open your mouth, what message are you delivering?  Is it demoralizing, encouraging or lame?  Are you positive, negative or somewhere in between?  As Thanksgiving and Christmas approaches, strap on your spiritual shoes so that no one misses the reason for this upcoming season.

by Jay Mankus

A Lesson about the Human Mind

The word mind appears 95 times in the original King James Bible translation.  Many of these references appear in the New Testament.  The Greek word noús is the God-given capacity of each person to think.  This is where the concept of reason is derived, the mental capacity to exercise reflective thinking.  Thus, as an individual reads the Bible for the first time, the idea of an invisible supernatural force may be difficult to grasp.

But the natural [unbelieving] man does not accept the things [the teachings and revelations] of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness [absurd and illogical] to him; and he is incapable of understanding them, because they are spiritually discerned and appreciated, [and he is unqualified to judge spiritual matters], 1 Corinthians 2:14.

The apostle Paul addresses this struggle in the passage above.  Today, agnostics, atheists and scientists  reject initial thoughts of the Spirit of God.  To intellects, taught to expand their mind with natural and worldly ideology, biblical teachings seem absurd, foolish and illogical.  While debating, discussing and sharing the good news about Jesus to educated men, Paul came to the conclusion that many were incapable of understanding spiritual truths.  These stubborn souls are blinded by minds steeped in age old traditions.

But the spiritual man [the spiritually mature Christian] judges all things [questions, examines and applies what the Holy Spirit reveals], yet is himself judged by no one [the unbeliever cannot judge and understand the believer’s spiritual nature]. 16 For who has known the mind and purposes of the Lord, so as to instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ [to be guided by His thoughts and purposes], 1 Corinthians 2:15-16.

In May of 2008, Hollywood released Indiana Jones and the Kingdom Crystal Skull.  This film is based upon gnosis, the knowledge of spiritual mysteries.  After a pursuit for an ancient crystal skull, the climax reveals that knowledge belongs to aliens, higher beings beyond earth.  You don’t have to see this movie to be informed.  Rather, the passage above unlocks the secret to this life.  The Holy Ghost, an invisible counselor guides those who place their faith and trust in Jesus, Romans 10:9-10.  When you let God in, the Holy Spirit opens your mind to spiritual truths once hidden by a sinful nature.  May this blog inspire you to develop a Christ like mind.

by Jay Mankus

The Seventh Hand

The oldest preserved measuring rod is a copper-alloy bar discovered by the German Assyriologist Eckhard Unger during an excavation of the ancient city of Nippur.  This device is believed to have been used 2650 years before Christ.  According to the Bible, a cubit is the earliest form of measurement.  A cubit is the forearm length from the tip of the middle finger to the bottom of the elbow.  Thus, the hand was an essential body part necessary to complete the most basic measurement.

And these are the measurements of the altar [of burnt offering] in cubits (the cubit being a [long] cubit [the length of a forearm] and a hand width): the base shall be a cubit [long] and a cubit wide, with its border on its edge all around it of a span [in width]. And this shall be the height of the base of the altar, Ezekiel 43:13.

Within the Old Testament, some of the authors introduce the concept of guardian angels.  The Psalmist describes this spiritual being as one who encamps around those who fear God, Psalm 34:7.  In addition, God commands angels to guard you in all of your ways, Psalm 91:11.  This invisible being is like the hand of God watching over your life.  Yet, the Psalmist does include a requirement, fearing God.  The context of this fear is similar to a holy reverence, respecting the Creator of life on earth.  The degree to which you fear the Lord serves as a measuring stick of your faith.

But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future], John 16:13.

Prior to his death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus refers to a Holy Ghost that will be sent after his departure.  New Testament authors refer to this being as a counselor, sent to guide and direct followers of Christ to a complete understanding of truth.  Like another hand to hold, nudge or tap, God uses angels and the Holy Spirit to seek and to save those who are spiritually lost.  Depending upon your current state of mind, may the presence of guardian angels and God’s Spirit encourage you to hold onto the seventh hand, messengers of God, until the storms in life subside.

by Jay Mankus

 

Pray at Lunchtime for the United States

The origin of praying for a meal has ties to the Old Testament and New Testament.  In the days of Israel, cup bearers were similar to modern day secret service agents.  Instead of serving as an armed guard, these men tested the food and wine for poisons.  If no one died, this meal was safe for the king to enjoy.  One of the most famous cup bearers is Nehemiah, who God used as a vessel to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.  In the first century, the apostles gave thanks for each meal the Lord provided.  While the passage below does not detail the words spoken, praying before eating was a form of thanksgiving.

Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all, and he broke it and began to eat, Acts 27:35.

Today, Christians continue this practice, folding their hands, closing their eyes and either silently or verbally expressing thanks to God for daily bread.  Just as Moses gave thanks for manna from heaven and quail via God, saying grace is an act of appreciation for the little things in life.  Unfortunately, praying at lunch has made national news recently for the wrong reason.  Brigadier General John Teichert who has a blog encouraging individuals to pray at lunchtime for the United States is being threatened by a lawsuit.  Attorney Michael Weinstein who trolls Christians on military bases recently said, “General Teichert should be doing time behind prison bars, not commanding a Wing wearing a general’s stars,”

Then all of them were encouraged and their spirits improved, and they also ate some food, Acts 27:36.

Luke provides the benefits of praying before a meal in the passage above.  Based upon the words used by Luke, saying grace can be moving as people pour out their hearts to God.  This specific prayer encouraged everyone in attendance as well as uplifting their spirits.  If public prayer for a meal could have this impact on a group of people, why is this attorney be so upset?  If prayer can inspire souls to act, what’s the big deal?  How is prayer hurting military bases and the men and women who serve this country?  Perhaps, if atheists, critics and skeptics begin to pray, this world would become a better place.  May the readers of this blog keep General Teichert in your prayers so that the power of prayer will continue to thrive in this country and throughout the world.

by Jay Mankus

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