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Tag Archives: spiritual disciplines

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

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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

 

 

 

The Mystery of Prayer

Seven years ago, my career path took an unexpected turn from a high school Bible teacher to the unemployment line.  Following previous setbacks, God always gave me feedback, insight or some sort of sign to know if I was on the right path.  Unfortunately, my soul has never fully healed from this crushing disappointment, not quite sure what I am suppose to do or where I need to invest my time in the future.  This perplexing situation has lead me to contemplate the mystery of prayer.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, Romans 8:26.

My research has led me to narrow in on three conditions which influence whether or not prayers are answered.  According to Deuteronomy 28, blessings are directly related to diligently listening, obeying the voice of God and carefully following God’s commands in the Bible.  The second piece of criteria is provided by Moses’ predecessor Joshua 1:5-9.  The new leader of Israel introduces the concept of spiritual disciplines which begins with reading, reflecting upon and mediating upon God’s Word.  Finally, Jesus provides the final condition during a conversation with his disciples in Matthew 21:19-22.  If you place your trust and confidence in Jesus, free from doubt, ask whatever you desire in the context of God’s will and the mystery of prayer will be unlocked.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

After Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, the apostle Paul instructs first century believers on what to do now.  In a letter to the church of Rome, Paul writes about times when you are struggling to come up with words to say while praying.  According to Paul, this is when you need to lean on the Holy Spirit, trusting God to intervene as you pray.  When I evaluate my own life against these biblical standards, I can clearly see where I have come up short.  Thus, for now I need to get back to the basics: listening to God, studying the Bible, applying what I am learning and submit my life to prayer.  May the words in this blog help you better understand the mystery of prayer.

by Jay Mankus

Guilt by Association

Television is filled with shows based upon the concept guilt by association.  Whether you prefer dramas like Bones, Castle, CSI or NCIS, each follow a similar format.  A death, murder or victim is found in the opening scene.  Crime scene investigators collect evidence, put together a list of suspects and use modern technology to solve each case.  Initially, the obvious culprits are interviewed leading the audience in one direction before a twist or turn take authorities to a previously unknown person of interest.  Although some episodes are based upon true stories, viewers of these programs should be weary of their own friends with troubled pasts.

Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example], Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers), Psalm 1:1.

The first chapter of the longest book in the Bible addresses guilt by association.  The passage above provides a short list of what to do and what not to do.  The author uses walking to illustrate how you can begin hanging out the wrong people.  Though walking is an innocent act, its like an open door into another world.  The further you walk with someone, the more you begin to accept, embrace and stand for ungodly beliefs.  However, the moment you sit down with this crowd, joining and participating in similar acts commences.  This passage serves as a warning, encouraging souls to avoid guilt by association through seeking God’s blessings.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night.  And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season; Its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity], Psalm 1:2-3.

The passage above provides a blueprint for those who desire to please God.  Meditating on God’s Word, the Bible helps prevent individuals from walking, standing and joining inappropriate acts, behavior and deeds.  Meanwhile, spiritual disciplines like Bible Study, prayer and worship rejuvenate souls daily as if drinking from the living water mentioned in John 4:14.  If you clearly want to avoid guilt by association in the future, live out the apostle Paul’s advice in Colossians 2:6-7 to become deeply rooted in Christ.

by Jay Mankus

 

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