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Progressively Passionate About God

If you ask a liberal college professor their thoughts about Jesus of Nazareth, progressive isn’t a word that you will hear. However, Jesus spent his last three years on earth surrounded by twelve men. Jesus’ ministry is the very definition of progressive: developing gradually; in stages; proceeding step by step. Jesus was the living Word of God, John 1:1-3. His display of love exemplified the fruits of the Spirit well before the apostle Paul wrote Galatians 5:16-25.

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope], Philippians 3:10.

Shortly after his ascension into heaven, Acts 1:9, the Day of Pentecost added passion to this progressive movement. Rather than condemn and punish wrong action and behavior, grace gave hope to those who didn’t deserve it, Romans 5:8. As the apostles become filled with the Holy Spirit, this progressive passion transformed the first century church, Acts 2:42-47. Poverty was eliminated as Christians saw their neighbors as one big extended family.

For this is the will of God, that you should be consecrated (separated and set apart for pure and holy living): that you should abstain and shrink from all sexual vice, That each one of you should know how to [c]possess (control, manage) his own body in consecration (purity, separated from things profane) and honor, Not [to be used] in the passion of lust like the heathen, who are ignorant of the true God and have no knowledge of His will, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5.

In a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul compares the church to a well oiled machine. This body with many parts recognizes that each member has been given a special gift, trait or personality designed to share with others, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. As long as these talents are freely offered, passion continues to flow. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus has stunted the growth of many, quenching passion. Nonetheless, if you are willing to develop your faith in a progressive manner, passion will return as believers keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

Afraid to Tell Her of Your Love

An inciting incident in a screen play is a story that upsets the status quo and begins the story’s movement forward. According to author and story guru John Truby, narrative drive is the forward propulsion of a story. When communicated in the right manner, this serves as a page turner, captivating audiences as viewers want to find out what will happen next. The inciting incident in my own life was the death of a good friend from high school. Since I was afraid to tell her of God’s love while she was battling cancer, her passing created a spirit of conviction within my heart for this to never happen again.

You have heard of my earlier career and former manner of life in the Jewish religion (Judaism), how I persecuted and abused the church of God furiously and extensively, and [with fanatical zeal did my best] to make havoc of it and destroy it. 14 And [you have heard how] I outstripped many of the men of my own generation among the people of my race in [my advancement in study and observance of the laws of] Judaism, so extremely enthusiastic and zealous I was for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when He, Who had chosen and set me apart [even] before I was born and had called me by His grace (His undeserved favor and blessing), saw fit and was pleased, Galatians 1:13-15.

In a letter to the Church at Galatia, the apostle Paul writes about his previous life before entering a relationship with Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-11. The first chapter of Galatians serves as a blue print for telling your own personal story about how you came to faith. This outline begins by sharing how you acted, behaved and lived your life prior to making your spiritual decision. The second part is simply when and how you were introduced to God. The final step of a testimony is explaining how your life has been changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit. For some of you, this process may still be in it’s infancy. Yet, as time passes, light will expose traces of darkness that still exists within you.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. Do not blush or be ashamed then, to testify to and for our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for His sake, but [with me] take your share of the suffering [to which the preaching] of the Gospel [may expose you, and do it] in the power of God, 2 Peter 1:7-8.

To ensure that I was not afraid anymore, I sought out accountability groups, Bible Studies and Christian groups on campus to deepen my faith. I set up a duel internship at a Bible Fellowship Church in Ohio to spark my passion for youth ministry. I spent a decade serving as a Bible Teacher at a Christian High School and the last nine years sharing my journey with God by writing daily devotionals at Express Yourself 4 Him. I’d be lying if I haven’t fallen short in the area of fear. Yet, faith is a process of rising and falling, talking steps back and marching forward. My end goal is to no longer be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus so that when an opportunity to share my faith arises. When fear disappears, you will be prepared to give an answer for the faith that you now have, 1 Peter 3:15-16, this Easter Season.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Extinguish Eternal Fire

During a visit to a prison in 1868, poet William J. Reynolds was inspired to write a hymn. Using the image of a camp fire, Reynolds opening stanza starts with the following words. “It only takes a spark to keep a fire going. And soon all those around will warm up to it’s glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love; once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone; you want to pass it on.” When the Holy Spirit fills newly devoted followers of Christ, faith becomes contagious like the classic song Pass It On.

And we earnestly beseech you, brethren, admonish (warn and seriously advise) those who are out of line [the loafers, the disorderly, and the unruly]; encourage the timid and fainthearted, help and give your support to the weak souls, [and] be very patient with everybody [always keeping your temper]. 15 See that none of you repays another with evil for evil, but always aim to show kindness and seek to do good to one another and to everybody, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15.

Unfortunately, rumors of apathy and complacency began to plague the Church at Thessalonica. Instead of passing on God’s love, first century Christians started pouring cold water on the spiritually optimistic. As a former Roman Catholic who was forced to attend mass every Sunday, I know what’s like not to want to be in church. While in college, I first encountered charismatic Christians, eager and passionate about worshiping God every week. Looking back, I was lukewarm, prematurely judging these on fire believers.

Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); 17 Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. 19 Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19.

Based upon the passage above, apparently some Thessalonians were suppressing the joy of other first century Christians. Perhaps, envy played a part in this behavior. When someone has a passion that is missing from your own life, defense mechanisms often trigger crude and unusual reactions. If you finding yourself lashing due to jealousy, you should consider Paul’s advice. Faith shouldn’t be regulated by your emotions. Rather, worship should consume your soul daily, thirsty for God’s Word which serves as fuel for eternal fire.

by Jay Mankus

Aglow and Burning with Passion

The Sermon on the Mount serves as a collection of ideas for followers of Jesus. At the end of the first chapter of this famous speech, Jesus suggests that all Christians should strive for perfection, Matthew 5:48. The passage below inspired the childhood song “This Little Light of Mine.” In other words, God expects believers to stand out, aglow and burning with passion.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality), how can its saltness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven, Matthew 5:13-16.

The apostle Paul adds a new dimension to this concept in his letter to the Church at Rome. Paul implies that spiritual gifts should be offered to others with a spirit of love. Building upon Romans 12:1, part of offering your bodies as a spiritual act of worship involves a passion and zeal for service. When aglow and burning in the Spirit, any desire to hide your faith departs.

Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord, Romans 12:11.

Upon reading the passage above last week, Harry Dixon Loes’ song has a new meaning for me as an adult. While I don’t always feel like sharing my faith, staying aglow is essential. If you allow your spiritual fire for God to grow dim, darkness will surround you. Therefore, before the Holy Spirit fades, pass on the love of Jesus with the gifts, personality or talents bestowed upon you. Like the old camp fire song declares, Pass It On!

by Jay Mankus

Fighting Off Urges to Be Lazy

Idle, lethargic, languishing, plodding and remiss are words associated with lazy. After a hard week of work or mentality exhausting day of school, laziness is an appealing option. Escaping from the stress that life throws your way seems logical. Losing yourself on your phone, playing Fortnite online or indulging in social media are common hobbies where time is wasted daily. Yet, at what point does rest and relaxation turn into laziness?

I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man lacking understanding and common sense; 31 And, behold, it was all overgrown with thorns, and nettles were covering its surface, and its stone wall was broken down, Proverbs 24:30-31.

Solomon uses an example from his own life to rail against the urge to become lazy. This king isn’t alone as the Bible consistently warns readers against choices, decisions and desires to become inactive. The term work is portrayed in God’s Word as action, progress and production. Any contrary acts are compared with sloths, like giving into fleshly cravings to hit your snooze button over and over again. At these moments in time, you have to fight off urges to be lazy.

When I saw, I considered it well; I looked and received instruction.
33  “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest [and daydream],” 34  Then your poverty will come as a robber, and your want like an armed man, Proverbs 24:32-34.

During stretches of 2019, I have repeatedly given into urges to be lazy. This bad habit normally occurs at the end of my work week. As I collapse into my bed. whispers of justification have persuaded me to listen to my sinful nature. As I have tried to snap out of my spiritual slumber, passages like Hosea 4:6 come to mind. Most translations blame laziness on a lack of knowledge. Another version suggests that people perish for a lack of vision. Well, as I continue this weekly battle, to fight off the urge to be lazy,, I must turn my life around with a vision that aligns with God’s will for my life.

by Jay Mankus

More Than Just a Strange Thing

Stranger Things is an American science fiction horror show which is currently in the middle of its third season on Netflix.  This television series was created, written and directed by two brothers, Matt and Ross Duffer.  The setting of this show takes place back in the 1980’s, an era where it was common for teenager boys to binge on playing video games.  This passion or should I say addiction causes many boys to lose touch with reality.  Today, this obsession continues as many boys and girls are consumed by modern online games like Fort Nite.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?  Who has strife? Who has complaining?  Who has wounds without cause?  Whose eyes are red and dim? – Proverbs 23:29

In a recent episode of Stranger Things, social media exploded over their reaction between a scene with two teenage boys.  To avoid a spoiler alert, two characters get into an argument about girls.  One boy wants to pursue a girl that he likes while the other is not ready to grow up, clinging to his love for video games.  Unfortunately, this innocent scene has led a number of people on twitter to question the gender of this boy who doesn’t like girls at this time.  This is just another example of individuals reading way too much into a fictional show.

Your [drunken] eyes will see strange things and your mind will utter perverse things [untrue things, twisted things], Proverbs 23:33.

In 1997, the band Common Children released the song Strange Rain on their Delicate Fade album.  The lyrics of Strange Rain refers to the washing away of innocence.  The more children are exposed to adult content, growing up is accelerated.  In the second stanza of Strange Rain one line strikes a cord with me “when wonder fades in time forgive us for this crime.”  The more young children experience, hear or see things that they shouldn’t, innocence is stolen and wonder for life fades away.  While parents try to shield their children from danger, strangers things lurk around every corner.  This is where trusting God becomes essential.

by Jay Mankus

The Connection between Confidence and Passion

Whenever an individual experiences a glimpse of their full potential, an infusion of confidence emerges.  If this stretch continues for an extended period of time, passion is conceived to ignite future possibilities.  A recent example is my son Daniel, who shot one under par through a five hole stretch early last golf season.  When his chip for birdie lipped out on the hardest hole, excitement, hope and promise entered Daniel’s mind.  A few days later, during a spring break trip, Daniel stayed up past midnight, talking about his endless potential in golf.

Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value]. For you died [to this world], and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory, Colossians 3:2-4.

Unfortunately, golf is like life, it can be cruel at times, leaving you lost as if you have never played this game before.  After a few embarrassing weeks on the course, confidence and passion left Daniel as quickly as it arrived.  As I look at my own life, I am going through a similar stage.  As I approach my 50th birthday, I have put most of my time and energy into writing.  When I endure numerous rejections with few signs of progress, I question if it’s worth continuing to write.  As my mind participates in a tug of war like the song Should I Stay or Should I Go, my inner confidence and passion has deflated.

Whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus [and in dependence on Him], giving thanks to God the Father through Him, Colossians 3:17.

The apostle Paul provides advice to anyone who has lost confidence and passion for life.  In a letter to the church of Colosse, Paul urges individuals toward a new mindset.  Instead of allowing self pity to develop, set your heart and mind on things above.  Don’t live for yourself; rather place all your onus on serving God.  When your life is all about you, confidence and passion can be like riding a roller coaster.  Yet, the moment you place your focus on eternity, your purpose for living changes.  Therefore, if you are like me, sick and tired of the highs and lows in life, let the Holy Spirit raise you up, fueled by a mind set on heavenly things.

by Jay Mankus

With All Your Heart

Within every culture, there are clichés that exist.  As a former high school athlete and coach, playing with all your heart was often stressed.   Perhaps, this saying comes from a fictional character, Rocky Balboa, an overweight, out of shape boxer who is given a once in a life time chance of facing the heavy weight champion on Independence Day.  What Rocky, played by Sylvester Stallone, lacked in raw talent was compensated by a heart that refused to quit.  I guess you can say this is Hollywood’s depiction of with all your heart.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart,” 1 Samuel 16:7.

I recently watch a documentary on director Stanley Kubrick.  Entitled Filmworker, Leon Vitali spent decades serving as Kubrick’s punching bag, absorbing and learning from the criticism dished out by Stanley.  According to this film, during production Kubrick worked 18-20 hours daily, rarely sleeping.  As a perfectionist, tiny little details that few directors consider kept Kubrick on edge.  The more I watched, I began to understand what it means to do something with all your heart.  While Stanley Kubrick was difficult to work for and with, his request to his production crew and cast remained the same, give everything you have and more.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” Matthew 22:37.

Jesus asked first century followers for the same commitment level.  To meet, reach and surpass this standard takes passion.  When you feel like you have been born to do something, excitement comes naturally.  However, as human nature pulls your attention into other direction, focusing on a task is extremely difficult.  Perhaps, this inspired the apostle Paul to write “I beat my body and make it my slave,” 1 Corinthians 9:26.  When human hearts grow cold, lose interest or become comfortably numb, maintaining spiritual disciplines in your daily is crucial.  For those who are able to weather the storms in life, you may reach a point when you can honestly say, I have given all of my heart.

by Jay Mankus

 

Kenosis

The season of Lent ends this week.  This religious ceremony begins Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras concludes.  Since Lent lasts forty days, human nature offers individuals one last day to indulge your fleshly desires in the form of Fat Tuesday.  This Catholic tradition was designed to give Christians time to spiritually prepare themselves for Easter, giving up meat on Fridays during these six weeks.  The goal of this spiritual season is to empty yourself, to deny self so that you become more like Christ.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” Luke 9:23.

The Bible uses a Greek term to describe a similar process.  Kenosis refers to the renunciation of the divine nature in part by Christ based upon the virgin birth of his mother Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit.  In layman terms, kenosis is the relinquishment of divine attributes by Jesus Christ in becoming human.  To avoid any type of addiction to the sinful nature, Christians should strive to do the opposite, replacing selfish desires by making room for God.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me, Galatians 2:20.

The apostle Paul highlights this process in the verse above.    Starting over spiritually requires drastic measures, crossing out your own selfish ambitions with a devotion and passion to serve the Lord.  Although changes are hard to make permanently, this is where faith comes into the equation.  May the reality of Jesus’ resurrection inspire depressed individuals with a new sense of hope for transformation.  As Easter draws near, don’t be afraid to give your life over to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

 

No Doubt About It

When I was young and stupid, I relied on bragging to prove that I could do something.  When challenged, I was often exposed as my cocky words could not be backed up by actions.  Subsequently, God used disappointment, humiliation and failure to allow me to mature.  While I never lost my passion and zeal for competition, I tried to let my play speak for itself in college.  Although I didn’t win every intramural championship, I believed in my heart that victory was attainable.  There was no doubt about it,

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men, Matthew 28:2-4.

In recent years, telling the truth is like an animal on the endangered species list.  Some people want to win so badly that exaggerating, fibbing and spreading rumors is all part of the process.  This destructive climate has poisoned politicians with misleading ads, slandering their opponents, hoping the general public will be persuaded to believe these lies.  If you have the cable news, newspapers and social media on your side, the lives of innocent people can be ruined, left like road kill along the shoulder of a highway.

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day, Matthew 28:11-15.

As I am finishing my study of the Gospel of Matthew, I uncovered a similar first century plot.  Fearful the chief priest, Pharisees and religious leaders would lose their political power, they paid off Roman soldiers to spread false reports.  Despite the presence of zombies, the bodies of holy men and women from the past roaming the streets of Jerusalem for over a month, a corrupt scheme eventually halted the truth.  As a former high school Bible teacher, I come across secular films trying to discredit the Bible like this first century bribe.  Yet, when I research, study and watch these theories, I have come to one simple solution.  There is no doubt about the life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord.

by Jay Mankus

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