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The Mystic Secret of Faith

The English term Mysticism comes from the Greek word μύω meaning “I conceal”. The Greek derivative μυστικός, also known as mystikos refers to “an initiate.” The Christian definition of Mysticism is that part, or element, of Christian belief and practice that concerns the preparation for, the consciousness of, and the effect of a direct and transformative presence of God. The mystic part comes into play when the Holy Ghost, an invisible presence can transform the life of a rebellious and wayward soul.

They must possess the mystic secret of the faith [Christian truth as hidden from ungodly men] with a clear conscience, 1 Timothy 3:9.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul claims that the truth about Christianity is hidden from the ungodly. Since Paul doesn’t go into greater details, perhaps Paul is referring to individuals who are self absorbed by their own sinful nature. Jesus uses imagery like light shining into darkness, John 1:5. One of the ways truth is hidden is when Satan snatches away what was sown in someone’s heart, Matthew 13:19. When you add this to lust of the flesh and pride. 1 John 2:15-17, the love of the world prevents many from trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior, Romans 10:9-10.

But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you, John 14:26.

As Passion Week began, Jesus gave hints to the transformative presence of God. The Holy Spirit is like an inner guide who helps, discerns, intercedes and guide you toward what God wants you to do and where you should go. Jesus demonstrates the mystic secret of faith while praying early in the morning, Mark 1:35-36. While the disciples had their own ideas on how they were going to spend the day, the Holy Spirit gave Jesus precise instructions. To a certain extent, I never really know what topic I am going to write about each week, but when the Spirit moves I follow by typing until my blogs are completed. In the end, faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ, Romans 10:17.

by Jay Mankus

Prophetic Intimations

An intimation is the action of making something known, especially in an indirect way. To the visual learner, speaking in parables by using analogies that spoke to a first century audience was effective. Instead of dumbing down his message like a teacher telling everyone the answers, Jesus uses prophetic intimations to make people think. One of the stereotypes assigned to Christians is naive, blindly following an invisible God. Yet, this is far from the truth.

This charge and admonition I commit in trust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with prophetic intimations which I formerly received concerning you, so that inspired and aided by them you may wage the good warfare, 1 Timothy 1:18.

Free will offers everyone the chance to spend their time as they wish. Going to church, reading your Bible or praying isn’t forced by a spiritual drill sergeant. Rather, attending church, going to a Bible Study or worshiping God should be something that Christians want to do. When I was a young Catholic searching to make sense of God, I was eager to find out the truth. The more I read the Bible, Old Testament prophecies began to align, opening my eyes to the Savior of the world.

And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and those [preeminently] sinful? 12 But when Jesus heard it, He replied, Those who are strong and well (healthy) have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy [that is, [i]readiness to help those in trouble] and not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. For I came not to call and invite [to repentance] the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin), Matthew 9:11-13.

During a first century conversation, Jesus target audience comes into focus. The healthy don’t need to doctor, able to survive on their own. However, the sick and sinners all reach a point of desperation. Subsequently, Jesus recruited and trained 12 disciples to become spiritually self-sufficient. The goal was after Jesus fulfilled God’s master plan, these men could carry on his ministry after his ascension into heaven. As Christians strive to live the abundant life, John 10:10, you should want to draw closer and closer to God with each passing day. Seize the time that God gives you on earth.

by Jay Mankus

Mind Your Own Business

In my younger years as a student, if I was caught eavesdropping or asked too many questions, an insider would reply “mind your own business.” This idiom means to refrain from meddling, by keeping to your own affairs. Apparently, this expression was first used in the first century by the apostle Paul. Perhaps Paul was referencing part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:1-5. Instead of judging others, Paul wants believers to get your own affairs in order first.

To make it your ambition and definitely endeavor to live quietly and peacefully, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you,12 So that you may bear yourselves becomingly and be correct and honorable and command the respect of the outside world, being dependent on nobody [self-supporting] and having need of nothing, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.

In a letter to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul builds upon this concept. No one likes a control freak who points their finger to cast blame upon anyone who makes a mistake. If I could paraphrase the words above into modern lingo, “don’t tell people how to live, show them by your own example.” Christians who focus on studying the Bible, praying and applying biblical truth set the tone and become the light of the world, Matthew 5:14-16.

Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]. Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others, Philippians 2:3-4.

Instead of using similar terminology like take the plank out of your own eye first, Paul focuses on priorities. If your own life is falling apart, you won’t be much help to anyone in need. While Paul doesn’t say be selfish in the passage above, he suggests that you need to take care of your own interests first. Once you get your own house in order by removing any signs of hypocrisy, you can begin to look out for the interests of others.

by Jay Mankus

Spiritual Aerobics

Aerobics is a vigorous exercise designed to strengthen the heart and lungs. Besides running, swimming and walking which most of you can do by yourself at home or in your neighborhood, there are an unlimited supply of videos on aerobics. Whether you follow along to a workout video or you tube, there are numerous ways to get back into and stay in shape. However, if you keep putting this off day after day, you’ll lose all motivation for physical exercise.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. 25 Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. 26 Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit], 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

The apostle Paul introduces readers to the concept of spiritual aerobics. Using the host city of the Isthmian Games as a backdrop, a prestigious track and field event held during the off years of the Olympics, Paul references the strict training of these athletes. Spiritual aerobics is designed to strengthen your heart, soul and mind. Whether you’re reading the Bible, praying or participating in a worship service, these exercises energize your spiritual life.

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, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-12.

The author of Hebrews takes spiritual aerobics to the next level, comparing this to running a marathon. I once ran 15 miles in an afternoon training for my senior year of cross country in high school. While one of my teammates easily cruised through the final few miles, I struggled to finish as my legs got heavier and heavier with each stride. The key to spiritual aerobics is unloading and throwing off anything that is holding you back or slowing you down. Instead of dreading the race called life, keep your head up and fix your eyes on Jesus so you will find the strength to make it to the finish line.

by Jay Mankus

Lord It’s Been So Long

If you’re not careful, life can be like a white water rafting trip. Once you’re on the river, there is danger lurking around every corner. Depending upon the classification and level of rapids, each one can come fast and furious. Unless there is some sort of break in between for your mind to relax, there will be no rest for the weary. Anyone who finds themselves on a wild ride may be so focused on survival that taking time to spend with God is like a blip on a radar screen.

Moses sent them to scout out the land of Canaan, and said to them, Get up this way by the South (the Negeb) and go up into the hill country,18 And see what the land is and whether the people who dwell there are strong or weak, few or many,19 And whether the land they live in is good or bad, and whether the cities they dwell in are camps or strongholds, 20 And what the land is, whether it is fat or lean, whether there is timber on it or not. And be of good courage and bring some of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes, Numbers 13:17-20.

In his 1993 song, Power and Promise, Brett Williams uses the phrase, “Lord It’s Been So Long.” The context of these lyrics date back to Moses waiting to enter God’s Promise Land. In the second stanza, Williams refers back to the anguish Mary felt while her brother Lazarus was dead for 3 days. When signs of God’s power or presence is absent, invisible to your eyes, staying optimistic in times of trouble is difficult. This is where faith comes into play.

Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? Anyone who walks about in the daytime does not stumble, because he sees [by] the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks about in the night, he does stumble, because there is no light in him [the light is lacking to him]. 11 He said these things, and then added, Our friend Lazarus is at rest and sleeping; but I am going there that I may awaken him out of his sleep, John 11:9-11.

However, when basic spiritual routines like going to church, reading the Bible or praying stop occurring, God fades from your memory. While the Coronavirus may have been an excuse for some to use in 2020, it’s time to reconnect. The imagery of Luke 15:20 pictures the Lord as a concerned parent, patiently waiting on the front porch for prodigals to come home. Until lost souls come to their senses, this reconciliation is put on hold. Therefore, if you find yourself distant from God, today as good as any day to open up by saying, “Lord, it’s been so long.”

by Jay Mankus

Prayers to Stay Alive

The prophet Isaiah served as the spiritual advisor to King Hezekiah. On one occasion in Judah, Isaiah became a bearer of bad news, 2 Kings 20:1, revealing that Hezekiah’s illness will end his life. Not willing to go down without a fight, Isaiah records the words of this dying king. According to the context in Isaiah 38:2, upon hearing his death sentence, King Hezekiah turned away from the prophet, pouring his heart out to the Lord while facing a wall. Fourteen verses later, Hezekiah makes his intentions clear, “bring me back to life.”

Like a twittering swallow or a crane, so do I chirp and chatter; I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary and dim with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; take my side and be my security [as of a debtor being sent to prison]. 15 But what can I say? For He has both spoken to me and He Himself has done it. I must go softly [as in solemn procession] all my years and my sleep has fled because of the bitterness of my soul. 16 O Lord, by these things men live; and in all these is the life of my spirit. O give me back my health and make me live! – Isaiah 38:14-16

Dying of old age is one thing, but when a rare disease threatens the life of child, parents become desperate. John Mark recalls a father who sought out Jesus, eager for him to come to his house. Before arriving, Jesus tells this ruler of the synagogue to keep on believing. Unfortunately, it appears that they were too late as news of this little girl’s death spread throughout Jairus’ home. Instead of accepting defeat, Jesus cleared the room, praying with his inner circle. Taking the laying on of hands to a new level, Jesus commands the spirit of death to leave this girl by proclaiming “arise”.

When they arrived at the house of the ruler of the synagogue, He looked [carefully and with understanding] at [the] tumult and the people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when He had gone in, He said to them, Why do you make an uproar and weep? The little girl is not dead but is sleeping. 40 And they laughed and jeered at Him. But He put them all out, and, taking the child’s father and mother and those who were with Him, He went in where the little girl was lying. 41 Gripping her [firmly] by the hand, He said to her, Talitha cumi—which translated is, Little girl, I say to you, arise [from the sleep of death]! – Mark 5:38-41

While father time will eventually be victorious, it doesn’t mean that you should accept a doctor’s diagnosis. When I was 16, I was told that I would never run again and most likely walk with a limp for the rest of my life. However, before my surgery for torn tendons and an ankle twisted 180 degrees in the wrong directions, Ken Horne and friends from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes laid hands on me in the hallway. Praying for a miracle, even the doctor who performed this procedure was surprised that I was able to run cross country my senior year of high school. When you refuse to accept fate, there are several examples of prayers in the Bible to help you stay alive physically and spiritually.

by Jay Mankus

When You Wanna Get Away

When the National Football League was in it’s prime, Southwest Airlines was one of it’s corporate sponsors. The initial commercial began with an official making a bad call during a game; then made it worse by leaving his microphone on while discussing the play with other referees. Thus, the phrase “you wanna get away” was born.

And in the morning, long before daylight, He got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed, Mark 1:35.

Embarrassing moments don’t just disappear with time. Depending upon your age, how much you talk and the risks you take in life, these awkward and epic failures tend to increase. While on a field trip to the Smithsonian as a freshmen in high school, I wasn’t paying attention. Subsequently, I tried to walk up a down escalator. When I took I violent crash face first, I definitely wanted to get away.

And Simon [Peter] and those who were with him followed Him [pursuing Him eagerly and hunting Him out], 37 And they found Him and said to Him, Everybody is looking for You. 38 And He said to them, Let us be going on into the neighboring country towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out, Mark 1:36-38.

The Bible refers to a different kind of a get away. According to one of Paul’s missionary servants, Jesus started each new day by retreating to a quiet place. Once settled, Jesus began to communicate with his heavenly father. This time of prayer cleared Jesus’ head, enabling Him to start focusing on today. While modern people often wake up in a daze, Jesus was refreshed, able to narrow in on where to go, what to do and who to reach. The next time you wanna get away, follow in the footsteps of Jesus by praying.

by Jay Mankus

PERMA

The technical term PERMA is an acronym for a model of well-being put forth by Martin Seligman. Seligman is considered a pioneer in in the field of positive psychology. PERMA consists of five important building blocks of well-being and happiness. The P stands for positive emotions, E for engagement, R for relationships, M for mission and A for accomplishments. This model was designed to help those individuals who have experienced post traumatic stress disorder and want to overcome this through a major comeback mentally.

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore, Psalm 16:11.

The Bible compliments the PERMA model through a series of promises. Whenever you are on the road to recovery, doubt is one of the greatest obstacles, filling your mind with unbelief. Following a grueling injury while running a cross country race in high school, my doctors weren’t optimistic of me making a full recovery. After seeing the x-rays of my torn tendons, I was told that I would never run again, a permanent screw would have to be placed into my ankle, and I’d probably walk with a limp the rest of my life.

If you keep My commandments [if you continue to obey My instructions], you will abide in My love and live on in it, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commandments and live on in His love. 11 I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing, John 15:10-11.

At this time as a 16 year old, I wasn’t aware of the power of prayer. The day before my operation I was mobbed by Christian friends who laid hands on me, praying for a successful surgery. Twenty four hours later, the chief surgeon at Thomas Jefferson Hospital was amazed, explaining this procedure to me after I woke up. Like a skeptic who became open to the power of God, my ankle magically popped into place after twisting it back into where it belonged. Although I never heard of PERMA until listening to a recent sermon, I understood the importance of removing doubt from your mind before you pray, Matthew 21:19-22. May prayer be your PERMA.

by Jay Mankus

Five Stones and a Slingshot

According to Rick Hess, a resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Common Core standards have roots in President George W. Bush’ No Child Left Behind Act in 2002. Like so many education reform initiatives that seem to arise out of nowhere, Common Core Curriculum is another example of invisible human beings endowed with inordinate power to impose their ideas on public education. If case you were wondering, you can thank the National Governors Association for Common Core Standards. This attempt to re-invent the wheel for public education has left states and students well behind. When you add new curriculum such as the 1619 Project, Critical Race Theory, and White Privilege, America’s history is being erased before our very eyes.

David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of this Philistine; your servant will go out and fight with him. 33 And Saul said to David, You are not able to go to fight against this Philistine. You are only an adolescent, and he has been a warrior from his youth. 34 And David said to Saul, Your servant kept his father’s sheep. And when there came a lion or again a bear and took a lamb out of the flock, 35 I went out after it and smote it and delivered the lamb out of its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard and smote it and killed it, 1 Samuel 18:32-35.

As people and societies evolve, moments arise often via technology to find a faster, more efficient and quicker way of doing things. Instead of focusing on the basics: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, those in charge want to place their own stamp on how things are done. Take for example the passage below as the king and military leader is trying to instruct a shepherd boy on how defeat a giant. Initially, David appeases King Saul, trying on a heavy suit of armor. After moving around, this equipment was too bulky, preventing David from using his agility and quickness. Although the conversation between these two is brief, it appears that David convinces King Saul to let him use what he’s good at. While the odds were against him, David trades in a suit of armor for five stones and a slingshot.

David said, The Lord Who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said to David, Go, and the Lord be with you! 38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 And David girded his sword over his armor. Then he tried to go, but could not, for he was not used to it. And David said to Saul, I cannot go with these, for I am not used to them. And David took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones out of the brook and put them in his shepherd’s [lunch] bag [a whole kid’s skin slung from his shoulder], in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand, and he drew near the Philistine, 1 Samuel 17:37-40.

In 1993, the Christian artist Wes King released the Robe, one of his best albums. While other songs from this collection receive most of the attention, one struck a chord with my soul. The lyrics of Second String begins with an 8th grade football player whose girl friend is a cheerleader. The only problem is this individual rides the bench, praying to get into the game. The second stanza fast forwards to high school to an embarrassing moment on his first date. The third and final stanza refers back to David’s battle with Goliath. Like a tee ball player who is being over coached by every parent in the crowd, David stops listening to everyone else by turning an attentive ear to God. When push comes to shove, you have to trust in your God given gifts and talents. Although you may be tempted to try something outside your comfort zones, five stones and a slingshot led a shepherd boy into the king’s castle.

by Jay Mankus

Five Decades of Life

From Hurricane Camille to the Coronavirus, my life has now spanned more than a half century. While I was being born in New Jersey, one of the most violent tropical storms to hit the Gulf Coast formed as a tropical depression. While I don’t remember much of the early years, a little over half of my first ten years were spent in Oxford, New Jersey before my father was transferred to Wilmington, Delaware. Back in the 1970’s, Delaware was like living in the south, overflowing with hospitality, love and openness. As a boy with a severe speech impediment, this was the fresh start that I needed.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst,” John 635.

During the 1980’s, it was the best and worse of times. Living as a loner most of junior high, I didn’t value life until I was introduced to cross country at Concord High. Between my neighborhood, school, and running friends, I began to come out of my shell, ready to face my fear of expressing myself. Thanks to my swimming coach and Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s leader Ken Horne, I invited God to become part of my life. Although I didn’t really know what I was doing at times, retreats, summer camps and youth group propelled me into the 1990’s.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

My third decade on earth was my most adventurous, taking a semester off from college to travel the country. Initially, I felt called to become a social worker with the Methodist Action Plan. Since I didn’t make much money, I got a part time job as a youth director in Rising Sun, Maryland. As time passed quickly, I realized that I didn’t really know what to do which led me to the Twin Cities in Minnesota to attend a youth ministry trade school. Looking back, 1993 was probably the best year of my life which culminated in meeting my wife Leanne at a National Youth Ministry Convention.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.

As I enjoyed my early years as a newlywed, it was clear that my calling to be a professional golfer faded quickly. When the haze dissipated, another calling to attend seminary moved Leanne and I back to the east coast. Shortly afterward, the first of our 3 children was born. A rare eye disease cut this plan, causing a few years of transition before landing on my feet as a High School Bible Teacher and Golf Coach. When all the stars aligned, I found myself doing what I loved for a decade. Yet, like anything in life, all good things come to an end, leaving Red Lion at the beginning of 2012.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, Jeremiah 29:11.

This past decade has been the most difficult, being unemployed and unsure of my place in the world. Perhaps, the most challenging aspect of the last 10 years is not quite knowing where I belong. Out of this uncertainty, Express Yourself 4 Him was conceived. During the storms and trials of 2010’s, my good friend Spencer Saints introduced me to screen writing. Beside my current job at Amazon, I don’t how much to display as accomplishments. Nonetheless, I keep writing. Hoping, praying and pouring out my heart and soul into ideas for future Christian movies and television series. Maybe in the 2020’s I will finally see the fruits of my labor. Yet, for now, I am thankful to be alive for 51 years.

by Jay Mankus

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