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The Kind of Person You Ought to Be

Six months after graduating college, I attended a Youth Ministry Trade School in Minnesota. These 7 weeks completely changed my life; encouraging me to stretch and expand my comfort zone. One of the techniques that I learned was setting goals from a Could Be/Should Be perspective. From a spiritual standpoint, I learned to take an inventory of where I am currently and where I need to be. While writing a first century letter, Peter challenges his listeners to consider the person that you ought to be in Christ.

Since all these things are thus [b]in the process of being dissolved, what kind of person ought [each of] you to be [in the meanwhile] in consecrated and holy behavior and devout and godly qualities, 12 While you wait and earnestly long for (expect and hasten) the coming of the day of God by reason of which the flaming heavens will be dissolved, and the [[c]material] elements [of the universe] will flare and melt with fire? – 2 Peter 3:11-12

The origin of the term Christian dates back to sometime between 30 and 40 A.D. Citizens in the city of Antioch were impressed by members of their local church. Something was different about these people, a specific quality that set them apart from everyone else in town. As these followers of Jesus began to share their faith with the locals, one person put two and two together. “These people must be Christians, followers of Christ Jesus.

Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]. And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a [a]slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance, Ephesians 5:1-2.

As this expression spread, the apostle Paul provided other churches with a simple spiritual goal to shoot for daily. As people of faith become imitators of Jesus, the fruits of the Spirit take precedence over the acts of your flesh, Galatians 5:1625. As hearts and minds become renewed by the Bible, Romans 12:1-2, the Holy Spirit steers you toward the person you ought to be in Christ. Prayer, reflection, and worship provide spiritual disciplines to keep your mind on becoming Jesus to your local community.

by Jay Mankus

A Spiritual Makeover for Troubled Souls

A makeover is a complete transformation or remodeling of something. The two most common usages apply to an individual’s physical appearance or the complete renovation of a house. Whether due to age, deterioration and or erosion, makeovers may be necessary to extend life. This may be in the form of altering one’s diet and exercise so that healthy foods and working out will promote a spiritual makeover.

And also the Holy Spirit adds His testimony to us [in confirmation of this]. For having said, 16 This is the agreement (testament, covenant) that I will set up and conclude with them after those days, says the Lord: I will imprint My laws upon their hearts, and I will inscribe them on their minds (on their inmost thoughts and understanding), Hebrews 10:15-16.

The author of Hebrews eludes to an internal change that takes place through the power of the Holy Spirit. To those who experienced this transformation in the first century shared their testimonies. One of the ways sinners alter their wayward habits is by meditating on God’s laws, Joshua 1:8. When this spiritual discipline is done with a sincere heart, minds begin shift from selfish toward eternity. As mindsets begin to change, thoughts and understanding set the stage for a spiritual makeover.

 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:1-2.

The apostle Paul illustrates this transformation in the passage above. Whenever you stop living for yourself and start living for a higher calling, earthly bodies can begin to make this transition. Yet, a spiritual makeover can’t occur until you stop conforming to the patterns of this world. Just like Jesus encouraged his followers to emulate the beatitudes, spiritual transformation is an ongoing process as Christians seek to find out God’s will for your life. Unfortunately, change takes time as trial and error will close one door while opening another. It is on this journey where spiritual makeovers near completion.

by Jay Mankus

Looking in the Wrong Place for Conviction

Following the unfortunate death of George Floyd, a new movement was spawned. White Millennials began to attend Black Lives Matter protests. Whether convicted from Critical Race Theory or White Privilege seminars, a large number of white women have publicly confessed their sins of racism, bowing down to the BLM Movement. This sign of allegiance has emboldened BLM leaders to publicly demand other white people to bow at their feet. Using peer pressure and force on some occasions, many are looking in the wrong place for conviction.

And how can men [be expected to] preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings! [How welcome is the coming of those who preach the good news of His good things!] 16 But they have not all heeded the Gospel; for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed (had faith in) what he has heard from us? 17 So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself), Romans 10:15-17.

More than 2 decades ago I attended a 2 day Promise Keepers event at Soldier Field. The opening night was amazing, headlined by a moving speech from founder Bill McCartney. McCartney inspired the 65,000 men who attended with a call to become leaders in their family and community. Day 2 was focused on unity, addressing the topic of racism in the church. Instead of focusing on an individual basis, the Key Note speaker assumed that every white man in attendance was racist. As some one who attended public schools, spending 3 years in inner city Wilmington, I was offended.

Is anyone among you sick? He should call in the church elders (the spiritual guides). And they should pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Lord’s name. 15 And the prayer [that is] of faith will save him who is sick, and the Lord will restore him; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working], James 5:14-16.

God designed human beings with a conscience, serving as a regulating force to convict wayward souls. Meanwhile, the Bible is the only book in human history that has been deemed living and active, Hebrews 4:12. This code of conduct was designed to be a source of light, providing direction and guidance to our feet, Psalm 119:105. You shouldn’t have to go to church, a protest, or rally to be convicted. Rather, the apostle Paul reminded first century Christians that the more you read, study and listen to God’s Word, hearts and minds can change. Therefore, don’t allow peer pressure to alter your beliefs. Instead, meditate upon God’s Word day and night, Joshua 1:8. When you practice spiritual disciplines, conviction will come via the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

The Place Where Momentum Dies

Acceleration, briskness, expeditiousness and tempo are words associated with momentum. This invisible force is often played out during competitions as individuals or teams excel, clicking on all cylinders. When someone goes on a roll, confidence becomes contagious, spreading to teammates. Unfortunately, as quickly as this energy arrives, one error, mistake or mental lapse will cause momentum to vanish. The place where momentum dies is within the human mind.

This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and being spiritually impassioned, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things about Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John; Acts 18:25.

Whenever human beings become tired, artificial means are relied upon to stoke physical momentum. Coffee, caffeine and energy drinks are drank daily to awaken senses so that maximum effort is achieved at work. When one drink starts to wear off, another is consumed to ensure that momentum is maintained. While artificial methods often develop results, drinking too much caffeine can result in unpleasant side affects such as muscle tremors, nervousness or an upset stomach.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. 25 If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit], Galatians 5:24-25.

The Bible refers to a spiritual momentum. At the start of Paul’s third missionary journey, a Jews named Apollos felt spiritually impassioned by the Hebrew Scriptures which he studied daily. In a letter to the church at Galatia where Apollos first learned about Jesus, Paul credits this momentum on the spiritual discipline known as keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. However, Paul suggests that spiritual momentum is broken by appetites and passions from within. This sinful nature causes weakened minds to give into temptation. Thus, until you crucify these spiritual barriers, you won’t be able to become empowered by God’s Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

When Jesus Slides Down Your Top 10 List

Despite all of the new technological advancements, I still like to write down a to do list. While my priorities change from week to week, the satisfaction of checking off a goal makes me feel like I have actually accomplished something. When I don’t take the time to jot down my priorities, I make a mental note in my mind so when the weekend arrives, I can begin my list.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you., Matthew 6:33.

During the week, I have a set routine until my children’s sports schedules commences. To attend as my games and meets as possible, I am forced to alter my to do list. In the process, sometimes Jesus slides down a few notches from the top down toward the middle. When I delay my time to read the Bible, journal my thoughts and pray, it’s not uncommon to skip this spiritual discipline, forgetting about it completely.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also, Luke 12:34.

Jesus warns individuals like me to guard your heart. If you are not careful, temporary pleasures will influence your heart to change what you treasure. The more Jesus slides down your top 10 to do list, it’s likely that you will slowly grow apart from God. To prevent this slide from becoming a trend, Jesus urges believers to seek first God’s kingdom and righteous. When you do, God promises to bless and restore your life.

by Jay Mankus

The Cleansing

A decade old health poll revealed that 31% of Americans do not shower every day.  The same study showed 65% bath and or shower daily with 4% showering more than once a day.  Other cultures such as Europe find it socially acceptable to shower 3 to 4 times a week.  The purpose of cleansing is to disinfect, freshen up and sanitize human bodies.  The cooler than climate, the less this may be needed.  However, depending upon your degree of perspiration, you may need to shower twice a day to avoid offending your family with a fowl body odor.

And God, who knows and understands the heart, testified to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; Acts 15:8.

The Bible refers to a spiritual cleansing.  This isn’t accomplished by taking a private bath or shower.  Rather, churches perform baptisms which demonstrate a public expression of an inner faith.  According to the apostle Paul, God cleanses souls through the power of the Holy Spirit.  After someone accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior, Romans 10:9-10, first century Christians immediately participated in outdoor baptism ceremonies along a nearby body of water.  Despite having clothes on at this time, Luke describes this process as hearts beings cleansed by faith.

And He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith [in Jesus], Acts 15:9.

The symbolism of baptism is God’s way of giving human beings a clean slate, a spiritual do over where souls set out on a life long journey as a new creation in Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, the sinful nature inside of us, referred to as the flesh by Paul makes it impossible to be perfect.  In a letter to the church at Rome, Paul states on several occasions “there is no one righteous, not even one,” Romans 3. Thus, after experiencing a believer’s baptism, confession, prayer and fasting serve as means to receive another spiritual cleansing.  May these spiritual disciplines become a daily habit to cleanse your heart by faith.

by Jay Mankus

When Sanity is Restored

The Bible’s authors have a unique way of expressing individuals who make poor decisions.  A common way to explain this behavior is being out of your mind.  Missteps usually begin with momentary lapses in judgement.  When a pattern forms, unsettled minds take souls further away from God than they ever expected or intended.  Anyone who goes off the deep end is often labeled insane.

Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws. Daniel 4:33.

One of the gospel authors blames insanity on demons, Mark 5:1-20.  One man’s condition had gotten so bad that he withdrew to catacombs, living in an underground cemetery.  Jesus refers to his condition as being under the influence of an unclean spirit.  A legion of demons possessed this man, making sanity impossible under his current state.  Yet, Jesus diagnosed this man’s spiritual condition by relying on the Holy Spirit.  After confronting one dominant being, this man was set free.

Now at the same time my reason returned to me; and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor were returned to me, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was re-established in my kingdom, and still more greatness [than before] was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and faithful and His ways are just, and He is able to humiliate and humble those who walk in [self-centered, self-righteous] pridem,” Daniel 4:36-37.

Another disciple refers to a similar account or perhaps the same event.  This time the man once possessed is described as being in his right mind.  This is where sanity is restored as individuals can once again follow and obey their conscience.  The apostle Paul stresses the need to take thoughts captive, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  Make sure this spiritual discipline is exercised so that if you are on the verge of giving into temptation, sanity will prevail.

by Jay Mankus

Baby Jesus or the Man in a Red Suit?

According to Washington Irving, the concept of Santa Claus emerged in the United States beginning in 1773.  In Washington’s 1809 book the History of New York, Americans borrowed from Sinterklaas, a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat.  Commercial stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, followed by separate sections for holiday advertisements in 1840.  In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model.  The tradition of blending a real life Santa Claus to attract Christmas shoppers began in 1918.

Now they were also bringing their babies to Him, so that He would touch and bless them, and when the disciples noticed it, they began reprimanding them, Luke 18:15.

For the unchurched, Santa Claus has slowly replaced Jesus as the reason for this season.  As atheists, liberals and progressives continue to be offended by nativity scenes set up in public squares, law suits, public pressure and political correctness is eliminating the traces of this sacred holiday.  As a generation of babies, toddlers and young children have sat upon the laps of adults dressed up as Santa Claus, the concept of a baby Jesus is fading away.  Meanwhile, when asked by men in a red suit, “what do you want for Christmas,” Santa Claus has been elevated by many unknowing children to a god like status.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception [pseudo-intellectual babble], according to the tradition [and musings] of mere men, following the elementary principles of this world, rather than following [the truth—the teachings of] Christ, Colossians 2:8.

Apparently, fairly tales and wise old tales was not just a modern phenomena.  According to the apostle Paul, first century leaders who opposed Christianity began to develop plans to mislead followers of Christ.  These schemes appear to have been successful in deceiving some believers who did not possess a strong spiritual foundation.  The context of the passage above refers to becoming rooted in Christ, relying on the Bible and prayer to serve as a spiritual guide through life.  Anyone who does not practice similar spiritual disciplines are vulnerable to believing in lies, John 8:44.  This dilemma has led me to ponder, who will today’s children believe: baby Jesus or the man in a red suit?

by Jay Mankus

Beyond the Book

The song Living in the Pages by Bruce Carroll changed my perspective of the Bible.  This 1995 release from the album One Summer Evening challenges Christians to spend their time on earth living in the pages of the Bible.  After finishing two different stints as a youth pastor, I realized that spiritual growth is directly linked to the quality time invested beyond the book.  This includes meditating upon, reflecting on and putting into practice biblical practices.  Without any sort of application, conviction and I nspiration, a willingness to change fades away.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart, Hebrews 4:12.

From my own personal experience, it doesn’t take long for me to resemble Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  First published in 1886 as the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this Robert Lewis Stevenson gothic novel uncovers the dual nature living inside of human beings.  Whenever I go a day or two without reading and studying the Bible, my behavior suddenly changes.  Impatience spreads, foul words come out of my mouth and my emphasis becomes self-centered.  Meanwhile, when I do read the Bible, jot down notes and write blogs influenced by this spiritual discipline, God becomes more of a priority in my life.  Thus, your faith depends upon what happens beyond the Bible.

So faith comes from hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the [preaching of the] message concerning Christ, Romans 10:17.

Since illiteracy was rampant among first century citizens, the Torah was regularly read out loud by priests and letters written by apostles and disciples shared by home church leaders.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul details the relationship between faith and the Bible.  The phrase out of sight, out of mind applies to Scripture.  If the numerous words of the Bible contain supernatural power to transform souls, then the more time you spend putting this advice into practice the better off you will be.  Therefore, beyond the book, put your faith into action so that your life may win the respect and trust of outsiders.

by Jay Mankus

 

Spiritual Atrophy

Atrophy refers to the process in which body tissue or organs slowly waste away often due to the degeneration of cells.  Symptoms of atrophy include decay, deterioration, shrinking or withering away until human bodies no longer function as God designed them.  When this condition is diagnosed, aggressive physical therapy is necessary to prevent further complications.  Human beings are not the only things vulnerable to atrophy.

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

Belief, faith and spiritual disciplines can be attacked.  Satan uses compromise, deceit, half-truths and lust to lull Christians into bad habits.  If these patterns persists, it doesn’t take long for a fervent faith to be persuaded into following in the footsteps of the prodigal son.  The apostle Paul uses the term bewitched in a letter to the church at Galatia.  Like atrophy within the human body, initial signs are subtle.  Yet, when minds begin to justify and rationalize wrong actions, spiritual atrophy can become aggressive.

Now before faith came, we were kept in custody under the Law, [perpetually] imprisoned [in preparation] for the faith that was destined to be revealed, 24 with the result that the Law has become our tutor and our disciplinarian to guide us to Christ, so that we may be justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with God] by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under [the control and authority of] a tutor and disciplinarian, Galatians 3:23-25.

A group known as the Judaizers had infiltrated this congregation.  Clinging to religious traditions of Judaism, these zealots began to add conditions to salvation, confusing many of the new converts to faith in Christ.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul explained the original purpose of the law.  However, Jesus came to abolish the law, opening the door for freewill.  Instead of forcing people to believe, God uses freewill to introduce grace, mercy and forgiveness to those who fully repent, turning away from sin and toward God.  This is the cure to spiritual atrophy, taking time each day to pray, thank God and yield your life to Christ alone.  Pursuing godliness is like therapy to overcome the affects of spiritual atrophy.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

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