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Educating Yourself Out of the Supernatural Realm

As a former Bible teacher, I learned that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t reach everyone. Yet, this didn’t stop me from using a variety of teaching methods to relate to a broad audience. Like a farmer preparing their soil for another season, all I could do was sow spiritual seeds, hoping and praying for these to take root. However, even if you reach someone in high school, it doesn’t mean that individuals won’t become prodigals, drifting, leaving or venturing away from God for an extended period.

As for myself, brethren, when I came to you, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony and evidence or mystery and secret of God [concerning what He has done through Christ for the salvation of men] in lofty words of eloquence or human philosophy and wisdom; 1 Corinthians 2:1.

Unfortunately, after attending a semester or year of higher education, many students develop a superiority complex. According to Healthline.com, a superiority complex is a behavior that suggests a person believes they’re somehow superior to others. In the context of college, the more knowledge individuals absorb, this can go to their heads like first century philosophers. Upon visiting the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul was disappointed by many believers who put their faith in logic and science rather than God.

And we are setting these truths forth in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the [Holy] Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language [to those who possess the Holy Spirit]. 14 But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated, 1 Corinthians 2:13-14.

Based upon the passage above, it’s possible to educate yourself out of the supernatural realm. Every year, I receive word of former students who were convinced to reject God at some point before graduating from college. Like the movie God is Not Dead, sharing your faith with atheist professors can ruin any chances of getting a good grade. Maintaining your faith throughout your college experience is a difficult task. Although I wavered from time to time, I’m a firm believer in supernatural powers available via the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:3-4. May you overcome the temptations of the world’s wisdom to cling on to the truth that miracles still happen.

by Jay Mankus

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In 1982, the Clash released their album Combat Rock. While the song Should I Stay or Should I Go never cracked the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 Charts at this time, a commercial a decade later struck a cord with music lovers. Following a Levi Jeans ad campaign featuring this song, Should I Stay or Should I Go was re-released in 1991. Subsequently, this song reached number one on the United Kingdom’s Singles Chart. This success led Rolling Stones Magazine to rate this Clash hit as one of the top 500 Greatest Songs of all time in 2004.

When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were going from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, Tarry here, I pray you, for the Lord has sent me to Bethel. But Elisha replied, As the Lord lives and as your soul lives, I will not leave you. So they went down to Bethel. The prophets’ sons who were at Bethel came to Elisha and said, Do you know that the Lord will take your master away from you today? He said, Yes, I know it; hold your peace, 2 Kings 2:1-3.

In the Old Testament, one man was chosen to be the successor of Elijah. Prior to the mantle from being passed on, God tests Elisha to see if he is up to the challenge. Beginning in 2 Kings 2, Elijah visits four cities, asking Elisha to stay behind. Eager to spend ever last minute with Elijah, Elisha refuses to take no for an answer. Each time Elisha replies, “As the Lord lives and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.” One of the reasons for this resolve is that Elisha’s request for a double portion of Elijah was dependent of witnessing Elijah being taken up to heaven. Thus, Elisha is determined to go wherever God leads Elijah.

Elijah said to him, Tarry here, I pray you, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan. But he said, As the Lord lives and as your soul lives, I will not leave you. And the two of them went on. Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood [to watch] afar off; and the two of them stood by the Jordan. And Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up and struck the waters, and they divided this way and that, so that the two of them went over on dry ground. And when they had gone over, Elijah said to Elisha, Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you. And Elisha said, I pray you, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me, 2 Kings 2:6-9.

Upon being freed from a legion of demons, a man begs Jesus to become one of his disciples, Mark 5:17-20. However, Jesus convinced this man to go home to his family and share how God has healed him. To those with broken, dysfunctional or unloving families, this call is difficult. The question you have to ask yourself, “should I stay where I am in a comfortable spot in life or leave my comfort zone to share my faith with others?” Although you still may be stuck at home due to the Coronavirus, when America reopens for good, God is looking for the next Elisha, eager to receive a double portion of the Holy Spirit by going where God leaves.

by Jay Mankus

What Happened to Being Honest?

On May 25th, George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota when white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly 10 minutes. This one act of hatred has ignited a series of protests and riots over the past 2 weeks. As Americans still stuck under state induced quarantines watched helplessly from home, anger was unleashed upon buildings, businesses and vacant malls across the country. As citizens began to express their concerns and opinions on social media, the Cancel Culture movement has risen up to condemn, punish and silence those who deviate from mainstream progressive ideology.

But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully, 1 Timothy 3:15.

As each day passes, the backlash against honest tweets continues. The first victim of this backlash was Sacramento Kings Play by Play announcer Grant Napear. Napear was fired by his radio station and forced to resign from his 22 year position with the Kings all because he replied to a tweet “All Lives Matter.” The next was New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees who made a statement about honoring the flag in an interview during Memorial Day Weekend. While Brees wasn’t cut by the Saints, he was shamed into apologizing for expressing his heart felt beliefs about patriotism. James Bennet of the New York Times was forced to resign after agreeing to print an Opinion Editorial written by conservative Senator Tom Cotton.

[And see to it that] your conscience is entirely clear (unimpaired), so that, when you are falsely accused as evildoers, those who threaten you abusively and revile your right behavior in Christ may come to be ashamed [of slandering your good lives]. 17 For [it is] better to suffer [unjustly] for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than to suffer [justly] for doing wrong, 1 Peter 3:16-17.

One of Jesus’ disciples made an interesting observation in the first century. After publicly denying knowing Jesus, Peter is restored in John 21:15-19. This conversation seems to have empowered Peter to become a spiritual rock, eager to share his faith after Jesus rose from the dead. However, Peter adds a disclaimer, when you do share your faith, you may suffer. Although Peter doesn’t specify what kind of suffering, it appears to be socially. In other words, you won’t be the most popular person, but when you’re criticized for doing the right thing, it’s worth the backlash. I don’t know how long this trend will continue, but when you do express your beliefs, do so with a gentle, courteous and respectful spirit.

by Jay Mankus

What Would the Bible Say about You?

At the end of his letter to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul thanks those who worked quietly behind the scenes. Without these men and women, Paul’s ministry journeys would not have been possible or successful. Beginning with a deaconess and woman who opened her home as a congregational meeting place, Paul wanted to ensure that their contributions were not minimized or overlooked. Unlike the gospels where woman and children are excluded from the overall count of individuals present, Paul places women first on his list.

Now I introduce and commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, That you may receive her in the Lord [with a Christian welcome], as saints (God’s people) ought to receive one another. And help her in whatever matter she may require assistance from you, for she has been a helper of many including myself [shielding us from suffering]. Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, Who risked their lives [endangering their very necks] for my life. To them not only I but also all the churches among the Gentiles give thanks, Romans 16:1-4.

In another letter to the church at Galatia, Paul breaks down his entire life into three stages. Galatians 1:11-24 serves as an outline for sharing your faith by detailing your life before knowing Jesus, your conversion experience and transformation since making this decision. While every faith story contains peaks and valleys, portions of your testimony will connect with or touch other souls. One of Jesus’ disciples urges first century Christians to be prepared, always ready to provide the reason for the hope that you have in God, 1 Peter 3:15-16.

[Remember me] also to the church [that meets] in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was a firstfruit (first convert) to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked so hard among you. Remember me to Andronicus and Junias, my tribal kinsmen and once my fellow prisoners. They are men held in high esteem among the apostles, who also were in Christ before I was. Remember me to Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Salute Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, that one tried and approved in Christ (the Messiah). Remember me to those who belong to the household of Aristobulus, Romans 16:5-10.

As I turn our attention toward today, I’m curious about what modern writers might say. Would you receive a shout out like Phoebe, Priscilla and Aquila or be out-shined by other believers? As you go to work, reside in a neighborhood and let your guard down at home, what do people notice? According to my children, I drive too fast, I’m impatient and too opinionated. Are your daily actions full of light or do moments of darkness blur the love of Jesus inside of you? The book of Acts ends abruptly. Some scholars suggest that either the final chapter was never fully completed or simply missing. When judgement day arrives, what will God say about you? Only time will tell so make the most of the days that the Lord gives you.

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

Overcoming the Loss of a Loved One

My son Daniel and I were in the middle of deep frying chicken wings and homemade french fries when news of Kobe Bryant’s death first broke. In the days that have passed since January 26th, cable news, sports talk shows and Twitter have shared reflections on the life of Kobe Bryant. Yet, what about all the others? The homeless, outcasts and poor who die daily rarely make their local newspaper. Thus, Kobe Bryant’s tragic death has brought attention to overcoming the loss of a loved one.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, Psalm 147:3.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, there were 2,813,503 registered deaths in 2017 in America. This comes out to 7708 deaths per day or 321 per hour. While some of these deaths may include an entire family, friends and neighbors need to learn how to get by without them. The first step to recovery is dealing with the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Unfortunately, I have a friend who lost his son to cancer a decade ago and still hasn’t come to grips with this loss. Like many throughout history, the death of a loved one can send you into a tailspin that you never fully recover from.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” Matthew 5:4.

One of my good friends from high school died during my sophomore year of college, losing her two year battle with cancer. I took Maureen’s death hard, struggling to come with grips with why. As the years have passed since her death, the Lord has provided a few answers to my prayers. Although I wasted my opportunities to share my faith with Maureen, her death has inspired me to make sure I don’t repeat this mistake. Maureen’s death in 1989 conceived in me a desire for evangelism which has led to the creation of Express Yourself 4Him. While everyone grieves differently, may this blog help you better cope with overcoming the loss of a loved one.

by Jay Mankus

How to Increase Your Strength

Everyone wants to feel important at some point in time.  In the early stages of life, a desire to fit in will cause individuals to want to become a part of or join a specific group of people.  Whether this is a clique, fraternity, sorority or team, being part of a social setting adds a sense of belonging to lives.  To those embraced by their peers, an inner strength is found as a support system is formed.  This is one way that you can increase your strength.

Jesus did not let him [come], but [instead] He said to him, “Go home to your family and tell them all the great things that the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” 20 So he [obeyed and] went away and began to publicly proclaim in Decapolis [the region of the ten Hellenistic cities] all the great things that Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished, Mark 5:19-20.

During the first century, one man selected twelve individuals to become fishers of men.  As Jesus began to heal, perform miracles and spread a message that became known as the gospel, large crowds followed these 13 men daily.  This popularity inspired new converts to become disciples.  After being freed from a legion of demons, a man begs Jesus to accept and receive him as a disciple.  However, God had another plan for this man’s life.  When you go home and tell others all that God has done to transform your life, your spiritual strength grows as faith is shared.

All those who heard him continued to be amazed and said, “Is this not the man who in Jerusalem attacked those who called on this name [of Jesus], and had come here [to Damascus] for the express purpose of bringing them bound [with chains] before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased in strength more and more, and continued to perplex the Jews who lived in Damascus by examining [theological evidence] and proving [with Scripture] that this Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), Acts 9:21-22.

One of the most radical spiritual transformations occurs in Acts 9.  A religious zealot who persecuted apostles as well as overseeing the killing of Stephen, was blinded by a light from heaven.  This sets into motion a series of events that leads Ananias to eventually heal Saul.  As soon as Saul is healed, Ananias baptizes Saul suggesting a spiritual conversion.  Like the man in Mark, Saul spends at least 2 years convincing Jews in Damascus that Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.  Like anything in life, the more you do something, the greater your confidence becomes.  Thus, if you want to increase your strength, make it your ambition to share your faith daily.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Proving Your Faith

I spent most of my youth pursuing sports, playing a different sport each season.  One of the best ways to get more playing time is practicing during the offseason.  Unfortunately, when you are the best or one of the top athletes in a sport like me, I got complacent, lost my drive and was surpassed by others boys as I got older.  Since sports is so focused on statistics, coaches placed an emphasis on proving yourself game after game and week after week.

22 But Saul increased in strength more and more, and continued to perplex the Jews who lived in Damascus by examining [theological evidence] and proving [with Scripture] that this Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed). 23 After considerable time had passed [about three years or so], the Jews plotted together to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the city’s gates day and night so they could kill him; 25 but his disciples took him at night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket. 26 When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple, Acts 9:22-26.

If you take the Great Commission literally, Matthew 28:16-20, (Jesus’ plan to spread the gospel throughout the earth), proving yourself spiritually is based upon the degree to which you share your faith.  According to the passage above, Saul spent somewhere between 2 to 3 years doing this.  According to Luke, Saul used his upbringing as a Jewish zealot and knowledge of the Old Testament to convince his listeners that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  Despite Saul’s efforts, this wasn’t good enough to be accepted and embraced by Jesus’ disciples.  Basically, Jesus’ inner circle believed that Saul hadn’t done enough to prove that his faith was genuine.

What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works.] 15 If a brother or sister is without [adequate] clothing and lacks [enough] food for each day, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace [with my blessing], [keep] warm and feed yourselves,” but he does not give them the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 17 So too, faith, if it does not have works [to back it up], is by itself dead [inoperative and ineffective], James 2:14-17.

An earthly brother of Jesus gives a broader view of how an ordinary person can prove their faith.  Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, James believed that his oldest brother was a liar and lunatic.  When you read the passage above, James is using his own life as an example.  At some point, James’ own faith became inoperative and ineffective.  Genuine faith is alive and active, producing spiritual fruit or planting seeds of faith.  Therefore, if you want to prove your own faith, make sure that you  in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23.  By doing this, your faith will come alive for others to hear and see.

by Jay Mankus

Can’t Stop Talking About It

Bonnie Raitt released the album Luck of the Draw in 1991. The hit single from this album was Something to Talk About. This song was written by Canadian singer-songwriter Shirley Eikhard and recorded by Raitt in 1990. The lyrics contain the line “You’ve got to let me in or let me out” which is designed to draw the attention of others. The premise is let’s give people something to talk about.

For we, on our part, cannot stop telling [people] about what we have seen and heard, Acts 4:20.

A similar phenomena began to occur in the middle of the first century. As apostles started to perform miracles like Jesus, eyewitnesses couldn’t stop telling other people what they had just seen. Recounting these events became the daily topic of story telling as adults reveled in miracle after miracle. I guess you can say this was like the first Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum except the exhibits were transformed lives touched by the hand of God.

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame, 1 Peter 3:15-16.

In the passage above, Peter refers to proper etiquette when talking to outsiders. Sharing your faith such as letting strangers know how Jesus has changed your life is an important aspect of Christianity. Yet, you want to do this with gentleness and respect, remembering your life prior to Christ. Old Testament practices included Jewish parents recalling events from the patriarchs to their children. Perhaps, its time to reinstitute this tradition today to give families something to talk about every night.

by Jay Mankus

The Shell Game

The Shell Game is symbolic of three stages in life: early childhood development, reaching your prime and going through a mid-life crisis.  As a child, a lack of confidence, fear and insecurities cause many young people to hide who they really are.  When afraid, frightened or threatened, most turtles seek shelter under their shell, disappearing and hiding underneath until its safe to come out.  Likewise, human beings possess a similar defense mechanism, withdrawing from society until assurance, confidence and hope is restored.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

In the early years, stuttering prevented me from ever expressing myself clearly as a child.  Being made fun of, mocked and teased was too much to endure.  These attacks against what I could not control led me to live a private life until my teenage years, participating in solitary play, imagining what it would be like for me to talk without stuttering.  After my dad was transferred from New Jersey to Delaware, a neighborhood of kids helped me come out of my proverbial shell.  Friends like Jeanette, Steven and Richie overlooked my stuttering, seeing a potential that no one else had prior.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

By the beginning of my senior year of high school, my faith in Christ, amazing friends and an unquenchable fire for life transformed me.  This one year served as a catalyst to do things I never imagined possible.  Despite periods of stammering, God inspired me to become a youth pastor, high school teacher and invest the prime of my life coaching, mentoring and sharing my faith with others.  During this fifteen year period, I was filled with unswerving faith that allowed me to experience the abundant life, witness miracles and experience a spiritual awakening within Columbus, Indiana.  Unfortunately, at some point in the last fifteen years, I have reverted back to playing the shell game, trying to hide the person that I have become.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed, 1 Peter 4:12-13.

At some point in life, whether you call it a mid-life crisis or the painful reality that you’re not the same person that you use to be, this fact is hard to swallow.  Recently, I have tried to go back in time, to see where I went wrong.  When you don’t have the energy, drive or passion anymore, its hard to make progress or fix the flaws that are obviously present in my life.  What makes matters worse is seeing a shell of the person that you used to be and feel powerless to alter, change or repair the damage done.  If you reach this stage in life like me, Jesus is the only one who can mend your pain.  While restoration is a long process with bumps along the way, Jesus is like Med-Express, available at any time you need medical and spiritual attention.  As this endless shell games presses on, reach out to Jesus, who will hold your hand through the storms of life.  May this blog comfort your soul as you endure the good, the bad and the ugly in the shell game called life.

by Jay Mankus

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