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When You Can’t Make It Happen?

As a son of a former immigrant to the United States, I was raised to be frugal. My grandmother taught me to appreciate everything that you have. As I grew up in Delaware and began to learn from my teenage peers, I was encouraged to try to make things happen. Through dedication and hard work, I was initially successful in making things happen until I became a middle-aged white man.

And to keep me from being puffed up and too much elated by the exceeding greatness (preeminence) of these revelations, there was given me a thorn ([a]a splinter) in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to rack and buffet and harass me, to keep me from being excessively exalted. Three times I called upon the Lord and besought [Him] about this and begged that it might depart from me; 2 Corinthians 12:7-8.

Prior to the internet, people were forced to use a rolodex of phone numbers as a means to social network with all the individuals that you know. Back in these days, making it happen took weeks, months, and even a year on occasion. Yet, modern day technology gives the desperate, eager, and motivated a vast social network to make all your dreams come true. Yet, for me, I wasn’t able to find a new job.

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and [b]show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may [c]pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! 10 So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [[d]in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful [e]in divine strength), 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

The apostle Paul writes about a troubling time in his own life in the passage above. Paul was suffering from a physical ailment that he blamed on the Devil. Nonetheless, when you can’t make it happen in your own life, turn to Jesus in your own weakness. According to Paul, the more desperate you become in life, the stronger that Jesus can become for you. Therefore, lean on Jesus when you’re not strong and needy.

by Jay Mankus

No Doubt About It

One of the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church is a time of prayer during each mass. Depending upon the congregation or priest, a list of prayers is usually read out loud. Following each individual request, the audience responds with “Lord hear our prayer.” One of Jesus’ disciples writes about this in the passage below. According to John, God does hear these prayers and there’s no doubt about it.

And if (since) we [positively] know that He listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him, 1 John 5:15.

It’s not uncommon for children to adopt an invisible friend when they are young. While parents may be uneasy about this behavior, this is the power of the imagination of a child at work. Similar to Robin Williams’ adult character in the film Hook, age and time have a way of sucking the joy out of parents. Rather than revel in the innocence of being young, the Devil has a way of wearing down faith, John 10:10.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled greatly and asked, How is it that the fig tree has withered away all at once? 21 And Jesus answered them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith (a [n]firm relying trust) and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea, it will be done. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive, Matthew 21:20-22.

During a first century walk, Jesus teaches his disciples a powerful lesson about pray. This isn’t a meaningless imaginary exercise where you pretend to talk to an invisible God. Rather prayer is maximized when Christians approach God without doubt. Having belief and faith takes prayer to the next level. To those who pray without a doubt begin to move the mountains blocking God’s path for you.

by Jay Mankus

Under the Power of the Evil One

Whether you receive your news from cable, social media or local television, current events suggest that the world is falling apart. Beneath the surface, there are spirits of anger, hatred, and rage that result in chaos, violence and war. New Testament authors in the Bible point to a supernatural force that incites unknowing individuals toward evil acts. The apostle Paul provides a scapegoat: the fallen angel Lucifer.

We know [positively] that we are of God, and the whole world [around us] is under the power of the evil one, 1 John 5:19.

One of Jesus’ disciples makes a powerful declaration in the passage above. Members of the body of Christ know God without a doubt, absolutely through a daily personal relationship. Whether you fellowship with other believers, pray or study the Bible, faith results in spiritual clarity. Meanwhile, anyone who does not seek God end up falling under the influence and power of the evil one.

In which at one time you walked [habitually]. You were following the course and fashion of this world [were under the sway of the tendency of this present age], following the prince of the power of the air. [You were obedient to and under the control of] the [demon] spirit that still constantly works in the sons of disobedience [the careless, the rebellious, and the unbelieving, who go against the purposes of God], Ephesians 2:2.

The apostle Paul points to the Devil’s past. the archangel Lucifer who was kicked out of heaven. Despite losing his eternal destiny in heaven, this prince of the power of the air maintains his angelic powers. Ezekiel 28:14-15 details that 1/3 of the angels were banished from heaven along with Lucifer. These fallen angels now serve the Devil as real spiritual demons. This is the powerful force that is present on earth which corrupts human beings who aren’t strong enough to resist the power of the Evil One.

by Jay Mankus

Shutting the Door on Fear

Two first century authors use the imagery of a door to prove their point. The apostle Paul warns Christians against giving the Devil an open door to enter your life. This analogy suggests that you shouldn’t leave a crack or a gap. One of Jesus’ disciples focuses on the positive. This spiritual illustration uses God’s love as a source of superior power to snuff out fear by closing the door.

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love [g]turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear [h]brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection], 1 John 4:18.

As I read the passage above recently, my mind turned to 2 Corinthians 10:5-6. Trying to confront the Devil alone is reckless. Yet, when you learn to take your thoughts captive by making them obedient to Christ, shutting the door on fear is possible. If fear feeds on weakened minds that become paralyzed by ungodly beliefs, you’re giving the Devil a foothold to use your fears against you.

When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. 27 Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him], Ephesians 4:26-27.

One of Jesus’ disciples compares the Devil to a predator that feeds on isolated and wounded Christians. When a door is left ajar or cracked open, fear will enter your dreams while you’re sleeping. Anyone who doesn’t shut the door on fear will allow nightmares to continue to fester. These threats will only intensify as time goes by. This is why shutting the door on fear is essential for all Christians to practice.

by Jay Mankus

Taking a Stand or Falling from Grace

Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic vision of a world decimated by plague is the backdrop of his 1994 mini-series entitled the Stand. The survivors of this deadly biological disease are forced to make one of two decisions: take a stand or fall from God’s grace. Each is tempted along their journey with images of darkness and light. Depending upon the choices made, believers head for a cornfield to meet Mother Abagail Freemantle while sinners depart for Las Vegas to meet up with Flagg; a.k.a. the Devil.

By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children and who take their nature from the devil and are his children: no one who does not practice righteousness [who does not conform to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action] is of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother (his fellow [i]believer in Christ), 1 John 3:10.

During the first century, people followed one of two natures: the flesh or the Spirit. Immaturity, stubbornness and rebellion caused many to embrace the highway to hell, Matthew 7:13-14. John blames a lack of conformity to God’s will as the reason for prodigal like behavior, Luke 15:11-16. What you practice will define who you become. You may not want to be a vessel of the Devil, but we all have periods in our lives where we stray from God by doing what’s right in our own eyes.

For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not [b]adjusted and [c]adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to [d]a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

While the earthly brother of Jesus provides advice about temptation in James 1:2-15, the apostle Paul takes this one step further in the passage above. Since decision making in the midst of temptation can be poor, Paul urges Christians to look for the way out. Every day that you wake up to live, you should expect temptation and trials. As you battle with your own inner demons, Galatians 5:16-17, ask Jesus to give you the strength to endure, overcome and find the way out of tempting situation. Make the decision to make a stand today or else you’ll fall from grace like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

by Jay Mankus

Undoing the Works of the Devil

One of my inspirations to become a youth pastor and high school Bible teacher was to help teenagers avoid the same mistakes that I made when I was their age. Perhaps, this desire was a form of penance to undo the works of the Devil from my younger years. I spent a majority of my adolescence indulging my sinful nature to bring me pleasure. Meanwhile, to those little children who were watching, I set a poor example on numerous occasions.

But the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die, For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil and blessing and calamity. And when the woman saw that the tree was good (suitable, pleasant) for food and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave some also to her husband, and he ate, Genesis 3:4-6.

One of the comments Jesus made about adults who corrupt innocent children was to tie a millstone around their neck and throw them into the sea to drown. The imagery of this story in the Bible put the fear of God into me. This combined with a reoccurring nightmare about dying as a child set the stage for God to begin to move me away devilish acts. Like most teenagers, I was a slow learner who couldn’t quite put all the sinful habits of my past behind me.

[But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated the divine law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done], 1 John 3:8.

When you do give into that demon on your shoulder whispering evil thoughts into your mind, confession is your best option, James 5:16. This doesn’t mean when a similar urge returns that you’re safe. Rather, one of Jesus’ former disciples compares the Devil to a predator seeking to prey on isolated and weakened Christians, 1 Peter 5:8. If and when addiction or bad habits get the best of you, this is when you need to wrestle with your flesh to break free, Galatians 5:16-18. If you want to undo the works of the devil in your life, your have to put to death that sinful mindset by taking your thoughts captive, 2 Corinthians 10:5-6.

by Jay Mankus

The Baptism That Almost Never Happened

To an average person, the mind of God is hard to fathom. Yet even one of Jesus’ disciples; one of three members of his inner circle tried to cancel Jesus’ plan to save the world from sin, Matthew 16:20-23. Three years earlier, the spiritual leader known as John the Baptist attempted to pull off a similar stunt. In the passage below, John tries to talk Jesus out of being baptized by him. John felt unworthy to perform Jesus’ baptism.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John to be baptized by him. 14 But John [f]protested strenuously, having in mind to prevent Him, saying, It is I who have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me? – Matthew 3:13-14

Human beings have a hard time seeing the finger of God moving, touching, and working behind the scenes. Perhaps half the problem is that human nature makes most people focus on the here and now so that God’s greater good is never seen. Transition is one of those unpleasant experiences that seems unnecessary at the time it occurs, but it opens the door for future events to occur in your life. This is something that John and Peter both failed to recognize.

But Jesus replied to him, [g]Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for [both of] us to fulfill all righteousness [that is, to [h]perform completely whatever is right]. Then he permitted Him. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, He went up at once out of the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him, Matthew 3:15-16.

Despite being a discerning prophet, John needed to be persuaded to baptize Jesus. Based upon the discussion in the passage above, John was finally sold on fulfilling all righteousness. Modern day Christians don’t have the luxury of Jesus talking sense into us. Yet we do have an invisible counselor to usher in God’s will for our lives, John 16:13. The next time the Devil, Ephesians 2:2, seeks to block you from doing what God desires, keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:26, so that God’s will prevails.

by Jay Mankus

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

S.A.N.S. Episode 74: Don’t Believe It

One of the first Christian rock bands that I found that was as good as popular secular music is Legend. The release of Legend’s debut album Legend Seven coincided with my senior year of college. I can recall a couple of Friday afternoons when I rolled down my windows and blasted Don’t Believe It as I drove down Main Street to unwind. Don’t Believe It was inspired by a warning from the apostle Paul.

Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere, Ephesians 6:11-12.

This song refers to ungodly beliefs, lies planted inside the thought life of human beings. One of the greatest weapons of the Devil is convincing individuals that other people are to blame. Yet, behind the scenes in the spiritual realm, the Devil is serving as the mastermind of all evil. Subsequently, the message of Don’t Believe It still applies today with a call to stop believing the liar and chief, the Devil.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 73: Under the Ruins

Heavy metal music was conceived in the late 1960’s and became popular in Great Britain in the early 70’s. By the middle of the 1980’s, heavy metal was accepted and embraced by North America. When I needed a beat a little harder than rock, I turned to metal to raise my level of intensity.  One of the Christian metal groups that I discovered in college was Xalt.

Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [[f]in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour, 1 Peter 5:8.

Xalt relies on a classic metal sound with lyrics straight out of the Bible. On their Under the Ruins album, Xalt warns its listeners of the Devil and his attempt to steal, kill, and destroy souls, John 10:10. In today’s featured song Under the Ruins, the group exposes the schemes of the Devil, Ephesians 6:11-12. If you don’t take this advice seriously, you might find yourself feeling defeated; left under the ruins of despair.

by Jay Mankus

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