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Conducive to the Soul’s Safety

Conducive is making a certain situation or outcome likely or possible. This is the context of the passage below as Peter is seeking to protect the souls of first century Christians. While there are no guarantees in life, you can put safeguards in place that are advantageous, beneficial, and useful for favorable results. If the soul is the essence of who you are, your heart is the well spring to life, Proverbs 4:23. This is why it’s necessary to consider the safety of your soul.

And consider that the long-suffering of our Lord [[e]His slowness in avenging wrongs and judging the world] is salvation ([f]that which is conducive to the soul’s safety), even as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the spiritual insight given him, 2 Peter 3:15.

Safety protocol are procedures and policies that are put in place by businesses, companies, and organizations to ensure that a safe environment exists and is maintained. Federal and state officials rely on OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to oversee the safety of workers. Yet, one of Jesus’ former disciples appears to be more concerned with spiritual safety in light of an enemy that is on the prowl, 1 Peter 5:8.

What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered in the ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be afraid of Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna), Matthew 10:27-28.

Jesus compares this threat to a spiritual thief in John 10:10. Like a protective shepherd guarding their flock from wolves, Jesus doesn’t want anyone of his followers to get hurt. Unfortunately, the careless will fail to heed the warnings in the Bible. The Devil isn’t a fictional character who is powerless to harm you. Rather, this fallen angel possesses supernatural powers as the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2. Therefore, don’t flee in fear, but trust in the Lord and lean on the Spirit’s understanding to keep your soul safe.

by Jay Mankus

Use Guidance… Not Coercion

As a former teacher, I understand why some people may opt for coercion over guidance. Whenever an adult loses control of a classroom, the practice of persuading children to do something by force or threats is used as an act of desperation. After taking a Classroom Management graduate level course, I learned that students need structure. When you clarify your expectations and demonstrate a gentle but firm spirit, coercion is not necessary.

Tend (nurture, guard, guide, and fold) the flock of God that is [your responsibility], not by coercion or constraint, but willingly; not dishonorably motivated by the advantages and profits [belonging to the office], but eagerly and cheerfully; 1 Peter 5:2.

When I read and study the Bible, I see a big contrast between Jesus and the religious leaders of the first century. Jesus lived his life like a shepherd tending a large flock of sheep. Rather than oversee his disciples like a control freak, Jesus demonstrated how he wanted his followers to live their lives. Meanwhile, the Pharisees used God’s commandments, decrees and principles to coerce sinners into following religious practices.

Not domineering [as arrogant, dictatorial, and overbearing persons] over those in your charge, but being examples (patterns and models of Christian living) to the flock (the congregation), 1 Peter 5:3.

Despite being a vocal leader, Peter understood the importance of emulating the life and patterns of Jesus. When a leader is domineering or overbearing, fear and peer pressure is used to manipulate other people. This is all exercised and laid out to achieve a desired outcome. Yet, rarely do these leaders consider if this is what Lord wants. While the addressing the Church at Galatia, the apostle Paul compares this style of leadership with witchcraft, Galatians 3:1-2. In view of this, may the Holy Spirit convince you to focus on guidance and not coercion.

by Jay Mankus

Are You Able?

The first organized sport that I played after moving to Delaware was basketball. Unlike baseball which is more of an individual sport when you’re batting, I learned that you needed all five players on the court to be on the same page. If someone forgot their position and role, the play our coach called didn’t work. During a timeout, I can remember one of the coaches asking, “are you able to do this?”

And Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat portions. And the Lord had respect and regard for Abel and for his offering, But for [a]Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed, Genesis 4:4-5.

According to Moses, Able was the second child born on earth to Adam and Eve. While his older brother Cain followed in his father’s footsteps as a farmer, Able decided to become a shepherd. Perhaps Cain was pressured by dad to carry on the family business. Whatever the reason, Abel seemed to delight in his new trade. This contentment inside of Able made Cain envious and jealous.

[Prompted, actuated] by faith Abel brought God a better and more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, because of which it was testified of him that he was righteous [that he was upright and in right standing with God], and God bore witness by accepting and acknowledging his gifts. And though he died, yet [through the incident] he is still speaking, Hebrews 11:4.

This internal struggle forced God to intervene in Genesis 4:5-7. Apparently, God approached Cain and spoke to him about what was going on. Commenting about his depressed appearance, God asks an open-ended question. “Are you able to master the sinful thoughts crouching at the front door of your soul?” This question is repeated every time human beings are confronted by a tempting situation today. The next time you find yourself in a similar state as Cain, are you able to overcome sinful desires?

by Jay Mankus

When the Spiritual Dimension Changes

Jesus uses a parable to illustrate the spiritual dimension in John 10:1-10. Jesus lays out a series of characters from a shepherd, a thief and a watchman. Eluding to a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Jesus urges his audience of the need for sheep to know the voice of their shepherd. When the spiritual dimension changes, Satan uses his angel like abilities as the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, seeking to steal your hope, kill your dreams and destroy your life.

Therefore, rejecting all falsity and being done now with it, let everyone express the truth with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one body and members one of another. 26 When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down, Ephesians 4:25-26.

The apostle Paul takes a more practical approach to the spiritual dimension. While Jesus uses the analogy of a shepherd leading his sheep into a pen, Paul focuses on how individuals give the Devil opportunities to enter their life by the choices that you make. Anytime someone does not resolve their issue with a neighbor or spouse before the sunsets, this opens the door for the spiritual dimension to create havoc in your life.

Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]. 28 Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need, Ephesians 4:27-28.

Whenever anger is allowed to fester overnight, roots of bitterness are conceived within human hearts. Subsequently, when the sun rises on a new day, this pent up frustration brews until the spiritual dimension changes. It only takes one conflict, hardship or trial for what’s inside of a trouble soul to be unleashed upon an innocent victim. This is exactly why Paul warns Christians against giving the Devil a foothold, a crack to come crashing through an opened door to ruin another life.

by Jay Mankus

A Precaution for Your Safety

There are 43 accounts in the Bible where God is described as a shepherd. One of the reasons for this illustration is that human beings tend to wander away from God. These lost sheep spend months, years, and decades on their own, going through life without someone to protect them. To guard against wolf attacks in the middle of the night, this blog serves as a precaution for your own safety.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust, Psalm 4:8.

A first century doctor devotes an entire chapter of his gospel to the lost. Luke shares three stories of a Lost Sheep, a Lost Coin and a Lost Soul. The Parable of the Lost Sheep illustrates the steps that God takes to reach out to individuals who wander away from their Shepherd. The Lost Coin highlights the determination it takes to find something valuable when you lose it. Finally, the Prodigal Son is a cautionary tale of what happens when rebellion clouds your judgment.

For the rest, my brethren, delight yourselves in the Lord and continue to rejoice that you are in Him. To keep writing to you [over and over] of the same things is not irksome to me, and it is [a precaution] for your safety, Philippians 3:1.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul explains the reason for his letter. Paul doesn’t want to nag this new church into following Jesus via peer pressure. Rather, Paul wants these believers to remember the delight and joy of entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Perhaps, some of these members were quick learners while others were forgetful, falling back to the way that they lived prior to knowing Jesus. Instead of taking things for granted, Paul wants to make sure that no believer is left behind.

by Jay Mankus

Slip Proof

The oldest surviving shoes date back around 10,000 years. Similar to these scandals made out of rope, Roman soldiers wore scandals with thick spikes on the bottom of their soles. These were designed to allow athletic soldiers’ to dig in and take a firm stance so that each could defend their position without slipping. Roman soldiers were each expected to defend a six foot perimeter. Without these spikes, charging attackers would be able to break through this line of defense.

He makes my feet like hinds’ feet [able to stand firmly or make progress on the dangerous heights of testing and trouble]; He sets me securely upon my high places, Psalm 18:33.

Depending upon your occupation, slip proof shoes are necessary to keep you safe, preventing potential work related injuries. Chefs, construction workers, and professional athletes have a wide variety of options of slip proof footwear to choose from today. Modern safety shoes are designed to prevent slips and falls. Each brand is rated by dry static coefficient, a ratio of the force of friction between two objects and the force that presses them together. As a former cross country runner, finding the right sneaker is crucial for preventing blisters.

He will not allow your foot to slip or to be moved; He Who keeps you will not slumber, Psalm 121:3.

The Psalmist writes about the spiritual element of slip proof. The first passage is written by David, reflecting upon the rocky terrain that he endured as a shepherd. David realized that when he put the Lord first, trusting solely in God, he never twisted or turned an ankle. The passage above is part of a song, giving thanks to the Lord for providing a firm foundation, slip proof. Although circumstances constantly change, trusting in the Lord provides a daily constant so that modern believers can feel slip proof for the rest of their lives.

by Jay Mankus

The Spark that Makes Dreams Come True

Modern plows are large farming structures that implement one or more blades fixed in a frame drawn by a tractor. These expensive pieces of equipment are essential for farmers who own hundreds of acres of land. Back in biblical days, this technology wasn’t available, forced to rely on horses, mules or oxen. These animal driven plows were used for cutting furrows in the soil and turning it over, to prepare for the planting of crops.

Do I say this only on human authority and as a man reasons? Does not the Law endorse the same principle? For in the Law of Moses it is written, You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the corn. Is it [only] for oxen that God cares? – 1 Corinthians 9:8-9

As the first son of Adam, Cain found farming to be a thankless trade. This likely explains why Abel decides to become a shepherd, moving his flock once the land became arid. Abel’s initial success combined with Cain’s struggles sowed a seed of jealousy within Cain’s heart. This is the exact opposite thought that the apostle Paul suggests in a letter to the church of Corinth. When you begin to plow, you should expect God to bless your effort as long as you give 100%.

Or does He speak certainly and entirely for our sakes? [Assuredly] it is written for our sakes, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher ought to thresh in expectation of partaking of the harvest. 11 If we have sown [the seed of] spiritual good among you, [is it too] much if we reap from your material benefits? – 1 Corinthians 9:10-11

Paul seems to be referring to self fulfilled prophecies. If you think you are going to have a bad day, the probability increases that a bad day will come. However, if you remember how God has provided for you in the past, you’ll be more optimistic about plowing in hope of a productive harvest. Therefore, if you want to claim God’s promises in the Bible, faith is the spark that makes dreams come true.

by Jay Mankus

The Presence of Jesus in the Old Testament

Foreshadowing is an indication of what is to come. When plan A failed, allowing Adam and Eve to have free reign of the Garden and Eden except for the Tree of Knowledge, God uses imagery to introduce plan B. The apostle Paul explains the science of God in Romans 5:12-21. What Adam failed to do, being obedient to God, Jesus is sent several thousand years later to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring; He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel, Genesis 3:15.

In the second book of the Bible, the Lord raises up a man named Moses to be the voice of God for Israel. The only problem was Moses suffered from a severe speech impediment, Exodus 4:10. Despite getting frustrated with Moses’ lack of faith, God sends Aaron to speak on his behalf until Moses finds the courage to confront Pharaoh. The only way to survive an angel of death was to sacrifice a perfect lamb, without blemishes. Then sprinkle it’s blood above and upon your door posts. This lamb is symbolic of Jesus.

And you shall eat it thus: [as fully prepared for a journey] your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment [proving their helplessness]. I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be for a token or sign to you upon [the doorposts of] the houses where you are, [that] when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall be upon you to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt, Exodus 12:11-13.

Seven hundred years prior to the birth of Christ, a seer named Isaiah prophesied about Jesus’ birth, life and death. Isaiah 53:1-10 compares Jesus to a shepherd laying his life down for his sheep. The disciple who Jesus loved echoes this in John 10:1-11. While the Old Testament does show the wrath of God poured out upon the disobedient, the presence of Jesus sets the stage for God’s unconditional love in the New Testament. May this blog remind you of the numerous promises of God that have been fulfilled and those yet still to come.

by Jay Mankus

Fence Jumping

Before the days of gated communities and security cameras, home owners erected fences to keep people off their property.  Animals lovers added big guard dogs to scare off potential trespassers.  Despite these obvious warnings, if these obstacles meant saving time through a short cut, I was willing to take the risk as a teenager.  Depending upon who was with me at the time, we would approach cautiously and look in every direction to see if it was safe.  When the timing was right, my friends and I jumped the fence, ran and cleared the other side.

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out, John 10:2-3.

The Bible refers to a different kind of fence, a shepherd’s pen.  Early in the morning, first century shepherds led their sheep to a pasture to graze during the day, leading them with his staff.  Before night fall, the shepherd would count each one before placing them back into a pen for the night.  However, his work was not done, often sleeping outside overnight to protect his sheep from potential fence jumpers, wild animals hoping to get a free meal.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it, Matthew 7:14.

Today, fence jumpers still exist.  Some do so to escape a troubled past, hoping to find a new life on the other side.  Some find the grass greener on the opposing side of their fence.  A combination of discontentment and jealousy entice these people to consider exchanging one fence for another.  Meanwhile, others try to find the easiest way possible through life, even if it means cutting some corners here and there.  According to Jesus, only a few enter through the eternal gate that leads to life.  While countless attempt to jump this fence, no one has or will ever be successful.  Therefore, if you want to enter this place you must listen for and to the Shepherd to lead you to the gate of heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Hireling, Servant or Friend?

The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep.  So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. – John 10:12

Depending upon your desire, energy or level of commitment, you will likely fall into one of 3 categories.  The unmotivated will fall into a hireling classification, doing things because its a job.  Those who enjoy their place of employment will likely transform into a servant, taking ownership of the business where they work.  Finally, the friend goes one step further, placing their heart and soul into what they do daily.

The greatest among you will be your servant. – Matthew 23:11

The hardest part of any career is uncertainty, when the dedication you pour forth is not rewarded, going unnoticed.  Unless you receive some sort of compliment, encouragement or raise, some may give up before experiencing the fruits of their labor.  Thus, maintaining a positive attitude can be difficult, often coming to a point where you begin to think, “what’s the point anyway?”  Even the most devoted servant needs a pat on the back to keep them going.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. – John 15:15

According to Jesus, there is a difference between a servant and friend.  When someone becomes all in, surrendering a what’s in it for me mentality, they turn the corner.  This devotion sees the big picture, doing what’s best for their heavenly Father.  “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it, ” Matthew 16:25.  May the Holy Spirit lead to from a hireling, beyond the serving phase to a friend in Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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