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Tag Archives: the apostle Paul

Act as An Umpire to Regain Control

The expression umpire is found 5 times in the Bible. One is used by Job in the Old Testament; the other 4 are found in the New Testament. The apostle Paul uses umpire in back to back chapters in Colossians. The first references an individual who abuses their power like a modern day Major League Baseball ump on a power trip seeking to throw out as many players and managers as possible.

Let no one defraud you by acting as an umpire and declaring you unworthy and disqualifying you for the prize, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions [he claims] he has seen, vainly puffed up by his sensuous notions and inflated by his unspiritual thoughts and fleshly conceit, Colossians 2:18.

Less than a chapter later, Paul compares an umpire to a first century official at a Track and Field competition. In the off years of the original Greek Olympics, the Corinthian Games gave world class athletes a chance to compete. The context of the passage below refers to someone who maintains control by properly officiating each event. Any judgment call that is made must be backed up by a clear understanding to settle any disputes from a competitor.

And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always], Colossians 3:15.

According to the apostle Paul, the ideal umpire is one that allows the peace of Christ to rule in their hearts. When souls are in perfect harmony with the Holy Spirit, Christians will be able to maintain control in a world that tends to spin out of control. When believers think of and see the big picture of the body of Christ, you can stabilize any circumstances and situations that you encounter. Therefore, the next time tempers begin to flare, act as an umpire to regain control of a highly contested situation.

by Jay Mankus

A Deep and Clear Knowledge of God’s Will

The only thing on earth comparable to uncovering a deep and clear knowledge of God’s will is preparing your body for a triathlon. As a former runner and swimmer, I spent two winters in high school pushing my body to it’s limits. Since my practice schedule rotated with the girl’s team, every other day I would run before swimming. As it got colder, my hair would freeze when I ran after my two hour swim practice. Meanwhile, each summer I would take my boys on long bike trip, somewhere between 10-15 miles. Trying to walk after getting off your bike is hard enough, but finishing a triathlon with a long run takes everything you have just to finish.

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.

In a letter to the Church at Rome, the apostle Paul suggests that discovering God’s will for your life is attainable. However, you must develop the right mindset to make this a reality. Whenever I get lost in the world, filled with countless temporary pleasures, God’s will is put on hold. As a prodigal returns back home to the Lord, rededicating your life back to the Lord isn’t easy, especially when temptations begin to bombard you. Paul compares this with rigid daily disciplines as individuals offer their bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Yet, this is just the initially step before God’s will becomes clear and visible.

For this reason we also, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased to pray and make [special] request for you, [asking] that you may be filled with the full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things—Colossians 1:9.

While writing to the members of the Church at Colosse, Paul shares a brief outline of his prayers. Paul doesn’t want this church to wonder in the wilderness for 40 years like Israel waiting to enter God’s Promised Land. Rather, Paul wants these leaders to begin to ascertain their spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, so that these talents can be put into action, 2 Timothy 1:6. As these God given abilities are brought to light, a glimpse of God’s will for your life comes into focus. Yet, this process often takes years, decades and a lifetime to uncover. If you want to adopt Paul’s prayer for your own life, start this journey today so that a deep and clear knowledge of God’s will is unveiled to you soon.

by Jay Mankus

The Impulses of the Flesh

A sudden strong and unreflective urge doesn’t wait for an invitation. Like an itch that doesn’t go away, impulses tend to feed on moments of weakness. Whether this is a compulsive desire to raid your fridge for food in the middle of the night or an urge to buy whatever you see, impulses of the flesh are hard to control or tame. The more you feed these cravings, the hungrier your flesh becomes. Addictions, bad habits and poor decisions are merely byproducts of out of control impulses.

Among these we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh [our behavior governed by our corrupt and sensual nature], obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind [our cravings dictated by our senses and our dark imaginings]. We were then by nature children of [God’s] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation, like the rest of mankind, Ephesians 2:3.

In the lyrics of their song Slow Fade, Casting Crowns eludes to the impulses of the flesh. Using the expression “the second glance,” this opens the door for enticement to consume human souls. One of Jesus’ disciples refers to this as the lust of the eyes in 1 John 2:16. If the eyes are the lamp of the body, Matthew 6:22-23, as soon as eyes convince your mind to act, the impulses of the flesh take over. This may explain the apostle Paul’s confession in Romans 7:19, “I can’t control myself.”

But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). 15 Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death. 16 Do not be misled, my beloved brethren, James 1:14-16.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consumed by the agony of defeat, the apostle Paul does provide a solution in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Like an athlete going into strict training, extinguishing the impulses of the flesh requires complete concentration. The includes discipline, focus, and the will power to regain control of your body. Essentially, you need to exchange the impulses of the flesh with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. This process is made complete by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

A Different Perspective of Innocence

In the second season of Joan of Arcadia, Joan played by Amber Tamblyn is a junior in high school. At the beginning of episode 19 entitled Trial and Error, Joan is given an assignment by God. Appearing as a high school janitor, God encourages Joan to join Mock Trial. After an introductory conversation in class, Joan finds herself trying her boy friend Adam who is persuaded to role play Jack from Jack in the Beanstalk. As Joan volunteers to be the lead prosecutor, she finds herself going up against her best friend Grace played by Becky Wahlstrom.

So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We [as Christ’s personal representatives] beg you for His sake to lay hold of the divine favor [now offered you] and be reconciled to God, 2 Corinthians 5:20.

A first century letter by the apostle Paul to the Church at Corinth provides a powerful illustration of innocence. Using a similar concept found in Psalm 103:12, Paul explains what Jesus’ death and resurrection means for those who enter into a personal relationship with God. Despite whatever imperfections you possess and transgressions that you’ve committed, God has a special mirror with an unique reflection. Instead of magnifying all of your flaws, Jesus replaces all believers in this mirror. Thus, anyone who trusts in the name of the Lord, Romans 10:9-11, will be saved and deemed innocent.

For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness], 2 Corinthians 5:21.

To avoid a spoiler alert on the outcome of Joan’s mock trial, God and Joan have a conversation afterward, riding the bus on her way home from school. Little did Joan know that this mock trial coincided with inappropriate actions taken by Adam played by Chris Marquette. As the worlds of real and make believe collide, Joan is caught completely surprised. As she comes to grips with what just happened, God consoles her with a different perspective of innocence. Taking the form of a wise old woman, God claims that “innocence is faith that there is goodness in the face of cruelty and pain.”

by Jay Mankus

Driven to Your Knees

When tragedy strikes, most people need a shoulder to lean on, an attentive ear to listen or a hug to be consoled. During his several missionary journeys, the apostle Paul endured agitators, harassing crowds and mobs that wanted to silence his teaching about Jesus. On a couple of occasions, Paul was nearly beaten and stoned to death. Despite this persecution, Paul found time daily to kneel before the Great I Am.

For this reason [seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 For Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named [that Father from Whom all fatherhood takes its title and derives its name]. 16 May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality], Ephesians 3:14-16.

In a letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul reveals the secret to his prayer life. Upon his knees, prayer rejuvenated Paul, replacing his own needs with a desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Apparently, prayer strengthened and reinforced Paul, sensing God’s presence as he poured our heart in prayer. Paul exercised his faith in prayer by making a permanent place in his heart for Jesus.

17 May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; 19 [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]! – Ephesians 3:17-19

Over time, Paul’s faith in Christ was deeply rooted, like the firm foundation of a skyscraper. The daily discipline of prayer conceived and established the love of Jesus within Paul’s soul. When people become devoted to prayer, selfish desires are replaced by the fullness of God. When you begin to experience the abundant life, John 10:10, a spiritual addiction is born. Instead of allowing the world to dictate your mood, praying in the Spirit is like a wave flooding your soul with God’s presence. This is why Paul was driven to his knees.

by Jay Mankus

Can Tough Love Go Too Far?

Bill Milliken wrote a book entitled Tough Love in 1968. Milliken refers to tough love as an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run. While modern scholars point to Milliken as the originator of this term, the apostle Paul appears to have used a similar strategy in the first century. When I first read the passage below, my initial thought was that Paul went a little too far by handing a sinner over to Satan. Paul’s explanation for this punishment was to bring about repentance.

So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:4-5.

According to 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth isn’t what we now know as 1 Corinthians. The purpose of this initial letter was to address a spiritual emergency. Based upon the beginning of chapter 5, a sex scandal reared it’s ugly head in the form of incest. Some Bible scholars have suggested that the tone of Paul’s initial letter to Corinth was so harsh and over the top with tough love that it was excluded from consideration from the Bible during the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.

Not [meaning of course that you must] altogether shun the immoral people of this world, or the greedy graspers and cheats and thieves or idolaters, since otherwise you would need to get out of the world and human society altogether! 11 But now I write to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of [Christian] brother if he is known to be guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater [whose soul is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God], or is a person with a foul tongue [railing, abusing, reviling, slandering], or is a drunkard or a swindler or a robber. [No] you must not so much as eat with such a person. 1 Corinthians 5:10-11.

After Paul’s anger cools off, parameters are set to avoid similar incidents from occurring within the church. Paul’s advice is centered around taking careful considerations about who you associate with. To avoid becoming like the Amish, Paul provides a series of guidelines for the friends that you make and keep. The goal isn’t to shun the world. Rather, Paul references Psalm 1:1 to highlight who you walk with, stand with and join. Maybe tough love can go too far, but when used to protect vulnerable souls from walking away from God, it is an effective tool to bring about repentance.

by Jay Mankus

The Spirit of the World

According to Luke, the apostle Paul spent a year and a half visiting the church of Corinth. Following a visit to Athens, Paul headed to southern Greece, Acts 18:1. Philosophy, the search for wisdom and worldly traditions was a common topic of conversation at local marketplaces. Opening minds in Corinth to the spiritual dimension appears to have hit a snag. Paul blames this on the Spirit of the World in his first letter to the church.

Now we have not received the spirit [that belongs to] the world, but the [Holy] Spirit Who is from God, [given to us] that we might realize and comprehend and appreciate the gifts [of divine favor and blessing so freely and lavishly] bestowed on us by God, 1 Corinthians 2:12.

This term is not limited to the book of Acts. Paul writes two letters to a teenager pastor named Timothy building upon this concept. 1 Timothy 4:1 warns of a time coming in the near future where individuals will reject faith in God. Instead, people will turn their attention toward deluding and seductive spirits. Paul doesn’t hold back his feelings, suggesting the Spirit of the World teaches doctrines influenced by demons.

For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, And will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions, 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

If you follow current events, listen to talk radio or watch cable news, it appears this time has arrived. The Me Too Movement comes alive when a Conservative or Republican is accused of sexual assault or rape. However, whenever a Democrat or Liberal politician is under a similar investigation, the leaders of Me Too and the mainstream media become silent. When you examine this silence with logic, the Spirit of the World isn’t willing to allow truth to enter it’s domain, Ephesians 6:12. Powers of darkness fuel this invisible fight to ensure worldly views overshadow biblical worldviews.

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

Getting Dialed In

The origins of the expression “dialed in” is unclear.  The only agreement on this saying is that it pre dates cell phones.  There is a thought that dialed in refers back to the Vietnam War.  Whenever a soldier couldn’t do his or her assigned task within the required time or kept screwing up one of the crucial steps, getting dialed in was necessary to overcome their deficiencies.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established, Proverbs 16:3.

If you enjoy watching sporting events, whether its college, professional or the Olympics, most athletes are shown listening to wireless headphones prior to their competition.  Like any profession, there is a set schedule leading up to competitions, games and meets.  Certain styles of music have a way of preparing minds to focus.  While some may be more superstitious than others, listening to your favorite songs prior to competing is a common form of getting dialed in today.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, Romans 12:2.

Within a letter to the Church at Rome, the apostle Paul informs Christians on how to get dialed in spiritually.  Understanding the power of the sinful nature, Galatians 5:16-18, Paul warns believers that your mind must be renewed by the words of the Bible.  Unless a spiritual discipline of reading and studying the Bible is implemented, individuals are at risk of conforming to the world.  Therefore, if you want to get dialed in spiritually, follow the directions in Joshua 1:8 so that God’s voice and will become clear.

by Jay Mankus

How Praying Can Direct Your Life

A first century doctor provides a case study on prayer in the book of Acts.  Luke also served as a historian, traveling along side of the apostle Paul to document each missionary journey.  In the chapter below, Luke interviews a man named Cornelius and Peter about a special God instance.  Before meeting one another, each man prayed to God within a 24 hour period.  What takes place in the passage below illustrates how praying can direct your life.

About the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.) of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had come to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius was frightened and stared intently at him and said, “What is it, lord (sir)?” And the angel said to him, “Your prayers and gifts of charity have ascended as a memorial offering before God [an offering made in remembrance of His past blessings], Acts 10:3-4.

A centurion from an Italian Regiment is described as God fearing.  This reverence for God resulted in a devout faith; becoming a family man.  Cornelius earned a reputation for being a charitable man, giving donations to Jews and known as a prayer warrior.  Apparently, praying in the afternoon was a daily habit, resulting in a vision involving an angel from God.  This encounter results in a series of directions which Cornelius acts upon and follows.

The next day, as they were on their way and were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof of the house about the sixth hour (noon) to pray, 10 but he became hungry and wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared he fell into a trance; 11 and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet descending, lowered by its four corners to the earth, 12 and it contained all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” – Acts 10:9-13.

Meanwhile, 21 hours later God begins to move within Peter as he prays to the Lord.  During a conversation with Luke, Peter describes his experience to a trance.  The hunger within his stomach sets the stage for a teachable moment for Peter.  Initially, Peter rejects God’s message which is contrary to the law of Moses.  However, after God repeats himself a second time, Peter agrees to be open to this new teaching.  Thus, prayer gave a non-Jew in Cornelius hope while changing the heart of Peter to accept future Gentiles, non Jews.  If God can speak to two praying individuals, then image what God can do when communities pour their hearts out to God in prayer.

by Jay Mankus

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