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Getting Your House in Order in 2021

The Bible uses the term house when referring to the first century church. However, other verses suggest the mind of church leaders. Ideally, this is where the things of God’s will and understanding of faith forms a spiritual house. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul applies temple, usually associated with a place of worship, in connection with a human’s body. When you combine these two expressions, getting your house in order refers to cleansing and purging your body of your past to make room for God to abide and dwell within.

But when the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, it roams through dry [arid] places in search of rest, but it does not find any, Matthew 12:43.

In the passage above, Jesus is speaking to some religious leaders who are searching for a sign from God. Using an evil and adulterous generation as a transition, Jesus points to the spiritual realm that negatively influences broken, tired and weary souls. While freedom from addiction and bad habits is possible, the stronger the unclean spirits attached to individuals are, the harder it is to break free. Recovering addicts are never truly in the clear as when unclean spirits return, houses not in order will be easy prey as temptations intensify.

Then it says, I will go back to my house from which I came out. And when it arrives, it finds the place unoccupied, swept, put in order, and decorated. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and make their home there. And the last condition of that man becomes worse than the first. So also shall it be with this wicked generation, Matthew 12:44-45.

Most recovering addicts tend to have some form of accountability. Whether this involves a group that meets weekly, a mentor you stay in contact with monthly or a good friend who isn’t afraid to demonstrate tough love, accountability helps the weak begin their recovery. Nonetheless, only when reminders of addiction is purged and removed will the healing process progress. Therefore, if you want 2021 to be a year where freedom reigns, get your spiritual house in order this year.

by Jay Mankus

The Visual Paradox

There are times in life when your eyes deceive you.  You will run into people who appear courteous and kind, yet fail to reveal their hidden agenda within.  This visual paradox keeps you from seeing reality; the truth about what is happetning.  These anomalies, conundrums and enigmas keep you in the dark.  This mystery often goes unsolved until it’s too late or the answers remain with those who kept silent, now buried and gone.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth, Psalm 145:18.

There is a new movement sweeping America that defies logic.  While I am not sure of it’s origin, diversity is the energy driving this political ideology.  When common sense pokes holes in this desire to embrace everyone, the media rises up to shut down opposing views.  On the surface, this message sounds like something Jesus would have said, “to love your neighbor as yourself.”  This mental paradox has placed many Christians in the middle, unsure if loving your neighbor includes terrorists who secretly want to kill you.

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him, John 18:37-38.

In the first century, Jesus had his own set of enemies.  Jealous religious leaders believed Jesus was trying to usurp their political and religious power.  Subsequently, when Jesus didn’t conform to their worldview, plots to kill him began to surface.  Today, liberal leaders feel so strongly about secularism that if you don’t accept, adhere and embrace progressive ideas, you are pressured to deny your previous held beliefs.  At the college level, if you choose to exercise you first amendment rights by disagreeing, this visual paradox is exposed for what it is, an attempt to force a code of ethics upon individuals without conviction, faith or inspiration.

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, Ephesians 6:14.

The only successful way to combat this visual paradox is with truth.  If a roman soldier did not secure his belt, his armor would become vulnerable to a surprise attack.  Likewise, if individuals do not wear a belt, you could be caught with your pants falling down.  To avoid this fate, arm yourself with spiritual weapons by putting on the armor of God daily.  This discipline takes time and practice to apply.  Yet, if you are diligent, securing the belt of truth will prevent you from being deceived by similar visual paradoxes that emerge in the future.

by Jay Mankus

 

More Than a Spelling Test

As a student, English was always one of my worst subjects.  During my college entrance exam at the University of Delaware, I scored higher on Spanish than I did English.  Beside Language Arts, spelling tests usually gave me trouble, especially on the words with exceptions to the rules.  Thus, I was forced to use dictionaries and a thesaurus to improve my vocabulary.  Despite my efforts to improve, I still have a hard time visualizing terms, relying on spell check when in doubt is a common practice.

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken, Matthew 12:36.

During a discussion with religious leaders, Jesus refers to a different kind of spelling test.  At the end of your life, everyone will face a day of judgment.  Those who have experienced near death experiences talk about being in a room with a large video screen.  The movie on this device is your life story, replaying every good and bad deed that you have ever committed on earth.  Depending upon the legacy you left behind, this could be very unnerving and uncomfortable.

For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned, Matthew 12:37.

According to Jesus, this event will be more than a spelling test.  Instead of receiving a percentage grade, heaven is based upon a pass/fail scale.  Like an individual on trial, a judge will made the final decision based upon actions, behavior and words spoken.  This course never ends until your life is over.  Therefore, your preparation must begin now with advice from Romans 10:9-10.  Going on from here, Colossians 2:6-7 is the next level of faith.  While you will endure ups and down, Hebrews 12:1-3 provides one last piece of advice to help you pass this course.  If you feel like you going to flunk, paradise is still possible for sinners who repent.  May this blog serve as a study guide to help you cross the finish line.

by Jay Mankus

Are You Smarter Than a Pharisee?

Producer Mark Burnett teamed up with host Jeff Foxworthy in 2007 for the game show which challenged adults through the knowledge of kids.  Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader began on Fox and is now in syndication.  Like the classic Jeopardy, this entertaining show allowed viewers to see if they are dumber or smarter than the average 5th grade student.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.  “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” – John 3:3-4

If television existed at the turn of the first century, perhaps Are You Smarter Than a Pharisee would have a caught on.  The first contestant approached Jesus at night, afraid of what his friends might think if seen interacting with Jesus.  Thus, in the cover of darkness, Jesus introduces Nicodemus to the concept of becoming born again.  Similar to the early rounds in Foxworthy’s show, the first few questions are suppose to be softballs.  Unfortunately, Nicodemus over thought this one, responding like a pre-schooler.

No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions, Matthew 22:46.

Shortly before Good Friday, religious leaders attempted to trick Jesus, hoping to catch him contradicting one of God’s laws.  Thus, one by one, shrewd individuals threw out brain teasers for Jesus to answer.  To their surprise, Jesus made quick work of various theoretical situations.  Finally, his opponents gave up, walking away in disappointment.  Unfortunately, few people understand the concept of wise, 1 Corinthians 2:5.  If this blog finds you like Nicodemus over analyzing life, may faith in Christ put you over the top so you will become smarter than a Pharisee.

by Jay Mankus

Who’s The Snitch Now?

In today’s culture, anyone who tells the truth to an adult, the authorities or teacher is often labeled a snitch.  There is an unwritten code of conduct that is expected to be followed by peers.  Anyone who crosses this line betrays their family, friends and neighborhood.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth, Psalm 145:18.

The Bible refers to a different kind of betrayal.  Although religious leaders tried to drag up some dirt on Jesus, no one was able to find anything, not even a tiny white lie.  Thus, the chief priests put out word, offering money in exchange for Jesus, hoping someone would be swayed to cooperate.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” John 8:32.

I guess you can say the term snitch is a by product of a society without absolutes.  When right and wrong becomes clouded, peer pressure attempts to protect a friend from blame.  Young people have learned well from Adam and Eve, emulating and taking their actions to a new level.  Nonetheless, the Lord is searching for a snitch; someone is not afraid to stand up for what is right.  May the words of Jesus in John 8 come to realization in your life.

by Jay Mankus

Somebody’s Gotta Be Right?

If you unravel the earth’s history, forefathers, prophets and religious leaders have made some bold statements.  These claims have shaped and formed the beliefs of worship centers throughout the world.  Founders like Buddha, Moses, Mohammad and Jesus have inspired generations of followers.  However, how do you know the one that is right from those who have slightly strayed from the truth?

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

According to C.S. Lewis, each belief system possesses ethics, morals and prudent principles.  A former atheist,  Lewis wrote Mere Christianity to explain his journey from unbelief to faith.  Using apologetics, logic and theology, Lewis methodically separates Jesus from all other individuals.  Despite his findings, a progressive culture has forgotten about Lewis, professing there are many paths to heaven.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved, Acts 4:12.

At this point of contention, do you go along with the crowd, confront naysayers or examine the scriptures to ascertain the correct road to heaven?  While critics may call you intolerant, narrow minded or old fashioned, most would rather be safe rather than sorry, spending eternity in hell.  Thus its essential for inquiring minds to test everything, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, so that in the end the truth will set you free.

by Jay Mankus

 

You’re Not Welcome Here Anymore

Strong personalities can be polarizing, often ruffling the feathers of the elite.  The controlling, power hungry and religious leaders of the first century tried to destroy anyone who was a threat.  Subsequently,  as Jesus arrived onto the scene, his logic, miracles and teaching rubbed the Pharisees the wrong way.  As Jesus’ fame grew, envy, fear and jealousy inspired unwholesome thoughts.

Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus, Mark 3:6.

Jesus went from a wedding day hero in John 2:1-11 to a marked man a few healings later.  Sensing something wasn’t right, Jesus tried to keep a low profile by withdrawing to a remote location with his disciples.  Nonetheless, his fans couldn’t get enough, walking mile after mile to have their own personal encounter with Jesus.  Unfortunately, public events were no longer an option, not welcomed anymore by the Jews.

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” – John 19:6a

Today, politics continue to shape worldviews, drastically altering the perception of churches.  Although once the center of communities on the East Coast, Christian worship centers are now under attack.  Offended by biblical teaching, liberals have turned to the Supreme Court to legalize homosexuality and gay marriage.  If successful, the very future of Bible based churches may be in danger.  Like the days of Jesus, an increasing number of opposing voices are proclaiming, “you’re not welcome here anymore!”

by Jay Mankus

 

The Great Escape

Time after time, the gospel of John records Jesus escaping from danger, often using the phrase, “the time had not yet come.”  Disappointed by the spiritual blindness of religious leaders, Jesus lays into them starting in John 9:40, continuing through John 10:38.  Since God expects more from leaders, Jesus didn’t sugarcoat his words, being painfully honest.

Instead of adhering to Jesus’ warning, these Jews wanted to stone him according to John 10:31.  Unfortunately, their minds and hearts were steeped in tradition and religion, not a personal relationship with God.  Thus, with each word, the anger of the Pharisees in attendance stirred, reaching a melting point.  Out of frustration, this crowd of Jews tried to seize Jesus, John 10:39, but were unsuccessful.

In life, each individual faces their own dilemmas.  The poor seek to escape debt, the rich struggle to overcome the grasp of greed and the lonely attempt to outrun depression.  Jesus’ teaching was not easy, like the disciples’ own words in Matthew 19:25.  Yet, with God, Matthew 19:26 and through Christ, Philippians 4:13, all things are possible.  To endure the great escape from sin alone would be foolish.  Therefore, to insure your success, place your trust in Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, Hebrews 12:2.

by Jay Mankus

Ahead of His Time

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English has been the primary language in America since the early British settlements of the 1600’s.  Described as the Great American Melting Pot in Saturday Morning advertisements aired while children watched cartoons during the 1980’s, this country has gone through a major cultural transformation.  Instructions enclosed inside new products have multiple languages, with Spanish and English always mentioned.  Electronic telephone directions are played in English first, then Spanish.  In addition, depending upon the airport you travel through, intercom updates can be heard in Japanese, German or French.

Believe it or not, Pontus Pilate was ahead of his time.  After his wife was warned in a dream, likely a nightmare, Matthew 27:19, Pilate tried to pass the buck and responsibility for Jesus onto the religious leaders.  According to John 19:1-16, Pilate tried to persuade them, yet gave into public pressure.  However, in a last ditch effort to wash his hands of Jesus’ death, Pilate does something remarkable in John 19:19-20.  While he had a notice prepared and fastened to Jesus’ cross that read, “King of the Jews,” few recognize the last words of verse 20.  Like modern America, Pilate had ordered 3 separate plaques, in each of the 3 major languages of the day.

Maybe Pilate’s wife was mad at him, twisting his arm to have these 3 signs made.  Possibly a deep sense of remorse filled Pilate’s soul, inspiring him to do something in his power.  Or God, through the whisper of the Holy Spirit urged Pilate to inscribe the truth about Jesus for all to see in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.  Although, no one will know for sure until heaven, I suspect the hand of God played a vital role, helping Pilate be ahead of his time in communicating to all nations the truth about Jesus!

by Jay Mankus

The Olive Grove

There was a time in America when Hide and Go Seek was for more popular than playing video games.  Although not everyone runs the same speed, creative minds often found the best hiding spots.  Depending upon the size of your neighborhood or the boundaries children set, some games might last hours, searching for the last person.  On several occasions, this hider would come out, saving their hiding place for another game.

In John 18:1-9, the disciple whom Jesus loved takes readers into the disciples secret place, where they often met.  Beyond the Kidron Valley, Jesus took his disciples to an olive grove, hidden from the large crowds which followed Jesus.  Thus, John reveals these details to explain how Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, knew where to find Jesus when other religious leaders could not.

Like the old commercial slogan, “Calgon take me away,” everyone from time to time needs a place to get away.  Whether its a place like Cheers, where people know you by name or a secret hide away, rest and relaxation is essential for the human soul.  Though Sunday is a day of worship, God also wants individuals to rest, unwind and relax.  Therefore, whether you select an olive grove like Jesus, a quiet place or an activity you enjoy, recharge your internal batteries soon or else you might run out of gas.

by Jay Mankus

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