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Protecting the Holy Spirit

The apostle Paul writes one chapter in the Bible devoted to the need for spiritual balance, 1 Corinthians 6. While freewill gives human beings daily choices to obey God’s commands or do what they want. Paul explains beginning in 1 Corinthians 6:12 that everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Bad choices have consequences as sin separates human beings from God, Isaiah 59:2.

Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. 19 Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit; 20 Do not spurn the gifts and utterances of the prophets [do not depreciate prophetic revelations nor despise inspired instruction or exhortation or warning]. 21 But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast. 22 Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be, 1 Thessalonians 5:17-22.

In a letter to the Church at Thessalonica which had a history in the first century to overreact based upon Acts 17:1-10. Whenever emotions come into play, human nature can unleash practices of the flesh, Galatians 5:15-21. Paul’s advice for protecting the Holy Spirit begins with unceasing prayer where this spiritual discipline becomes an habitual practice. When prayer is absent, Christians open the door for the Holy Spirit to be suppressed, subdued or completely quenched.

Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [do not offend or vex or sadden Him], by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God’s own, secured) for the day of redemption (of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin). 31 Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind). 32 And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you, Ephesians 4:29-32.

A portion of Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome brings this dilemma to the forefront in Romans 8:5-8. Sinful minds are hostile to the Bible and are in direct conflict with the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, Paul’s letter to the Church at Ephesus warns against giving the devil a foothold in an area of your life. This is the context prior to the passage above. Since all people have fallen short of God’s glory, Romans 3:23, practice public confession and forgiveness so that unity within the body of Christ is restored and the Holy Spirit can conquer any roots of bitterness that linger or remain unresolved.

by Jay Mankus


It’s Just That Simple: Pray for Your Enemies

I consider myself to be a relatively laid back and mellow individual outside of work. However, there is a certain personality type which pushes me to my limits, on the verge of an emotional eruption. About a month ago, I was wrestling with inner demons, urging me just to let it all out on the table. Just before blowing a gasket, I happened to come across the passage below.

But I say to you who are listening now to Me: [[o]in order to heed, make it a practice to] love your enemies, treat well (do good to, act nobly toward) those who detest you and pursue you with hatred, 28 Invoke blessings upon and pray for the happiness of those who curse you, implore God’s blessing (favor) upon those who abuse you [who revile, reproach, disparage, and high-handedly misuse you], Luke 6:27-28.

I came face to face with the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 7:14-18. While I knew the way God wanted me to handle this situation, I was losing the battle for my soul, Galatians 5:16-17. As much as I hated to admit it, the Holy Spirit spoke to me in a whisper, “it’s just that simple: pray for your enemies.” Although I didn’t immediately apply this lesson, one week later I began to pray for this specific person.

You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy; 44 But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:43-44.

Despite being an adult, sometimes I just want to hide from certain people, avoiding them like Covid-19. Three weeks after I began praying, my first contact with this person in nearly a month was shocking. Rather than bearing the brunt of criticism, I heard the words of reflection, remorse and change. While part of me wanted to take some credit for this transformation, it was the Lord who brought me to a place where I could finally understand what it meant to pray for enemies and those who persecute you. It’s just that simple.

by Jay Mankus

When God Talked Out Loud to Himself

As someone who struggled with stuttering for the first 20 years of my life, I often talked to myself. Since I rarely expressed how I felt inside my heart, talking to myself was more like a pep talk with the hope when I open ed my mouth in public I would communicate exactly what I wanted to say. Unfortunately, my nerves and or stuttering always prevented me from expressing a clear and concise message.

And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham [My friend and servant] what I am going to do, 18 Since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed through him and shall bless themselves by him? – Genesis 18:17-18.

I’ve read the Book of Genesis multiple times, but I never realized that God actually talked out loud to Himself according to Moses. Perhaps, this is what the Holy Spirit wanted Moses to mention in the passage above. Whatever the reason for this rare moment, God didn’t want to leave Abraham in the dark about his plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, where his nephew was currently living.

For I have known (chosen, acknowledged) him [as My own], so that he may teach and command his children and the sons of his house after him to keep the way of the Lord and to do what is just and righteous, so that the Lord may bring Abraham what He has promised him. 20 And the Lord said, Because the shriek [of the sins] of Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is exceedingly grievous, Genesis 18:19-20.

The Holy Spirit was sent following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Acts 2, to speak to modern day Christians. According to the apostle Paul, if you’re paying attention spiritually, Galatians 5:25, you can actually keep in step with the Holy Spirit. Paul’s message to the Church in Rome is similar, Romans 8:1-12, suggesting Christian’s have an obligation to God’s Spirit. While you probably won’t ever hear God talk out loud to Himself, God’s still small voice is audible if you’re listening, 1 Kings 19:11-13.

by Jay Mankus

Lent or Bent?

As someone who was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, Lent was one of those seasons in life where I was asked to give up some sort of bad habit for 40 days. As a former athlete, setting goals was a weekly occurrence, driven to reach new heights. However, depending upon what I gave up for Lent, an internal wrestling match began inside of me, Galatians 5:16-18. This spiritual test revealed if my faith way bent or broken.

For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and [d]pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and [e]seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit. Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that [f]comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever]. [That is] because the mind of the flesh [with its carnal thoughts and purposes] is hostile to God, for it does not submit itself to God’s Law; indeed it cannot, Romans 8:5-7.

In the middle of a letter to the Church in The Rome, the apostle Paul opens up about a similar struggle going on inside of him, Romans 7. While Paul was a former religious zealot who fought against the formation of Jesus’ first century church, knowing right from wrong and doing the right thing is hard. Although Paul had good intentions, he reached a point in his life where temptation was winning.

So then those who are living the life of the flesh [catering to the appetites and impulses of their carnal nature] cannot please or satisfy God, or be acceptable to Him. But you are not living the life of the flesh, you are living the life of the Spirit, if the [Holy] Spirit of God [really] dwells within you [directs and controls you]. But if anyone does not possess the [Holy] Spirit of Christ, he is none of His [he does not belong to Christ, is not truly a child of God], Romans 8:8-9.

Subsequently Paul sets out in chapter 8 to highlight why this is going on inside of him. Whenever anyone attempts to change their life for the better, the sinful nature seeks to regain control. This is why changing your eating and exercise habits is so difficult. If this is your current reality this season of Lent, pray that the Holy Spirit enables you bend your faith back into shape.

By Jay Mankus

Igniting a Fire Inside Your Heart

I didn’t understand the concept of a spiritual fire until my second semester of college. After indulging my sinful nature, the entire first semester, inside I felt like the popular Foreigner song “As Cold as Ice.” Despite warnings from older Christian friends, I had my own prodigal son experience, chasing popularity and the party scene. When you live a lie for three months, I began to feel dead inside or as Pink Floyd once sang, “Comfortably Numb.”

And he [Abram] believed in (trusted in, relied on, remained steadfast to) the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness (right standing with God), Genesis 15:6.

After most of my floor funked out, there wasn’t as many distractions so I began to turn back to God. This spiritual U-Turn began at James Madison University during a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Retreat. My roommate for the weekend was the quarterback of Delaware’s football team. Despite his size and stature, Dave had a great heart and welcomed me with open arms. Following Friday nights Icebreaker, my heart was receptive to the people I met and speakers which followed.

For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [[d]full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue). By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:3-4.

Like a series of building blocks, each session tied together, sparking a sensation in my heart that I had never experienced before. As Saturday night led into early Sunday morning, students gathered in a conference room for an open mic. One by one, athletes shared about how God touched them, reflecting upon Bible studies and keynote speakers. Just as Abram experienced a spiritual turning point in his life, this was the moment I made Jesus the Lord of my life, Romans 10:9-11. The Holy Spirit ignited a fire inside my heart that still burns today, prompting a stutterer to face my fear of speaking in public. Before graduating college, this spiritual fire sparked a miracle, healing me from my stammering past. While I’m still a sinner, this spiritual fire is real and still burns.

by Jay Mankus

A Spirit of Confusion

The older I get, the more I become aware of senior moments: forgetting why you initially got up, drawing a blank on the name of a close friend or missing a turn while driving in a car. Some people may blame this on confusion, but when minds wander it’s hard to reign in curiosity. Self-help experts have written countless books on overcoming memory loss while drug companies are always pushing the latest miracle pill to cure spirits of confusion.

Come, let Us go down and there confound (mix up, confuse) their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from that place upon the face of the whole earth, and they gave up building the city, Genesis 11:7-8.

The first mention of confusion in the Bible occurs during the second industrial revolution in the Old Testament. After the flood erased the Nephilim, a civilization of giants, Nimrod appears to be the architect of Babel and the suburbs which sprawled between two large cities. When God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit came to see the progress of this mighty tower, each agreed that it was time for a change. Subsequently, the winds of change brought in a Spirit of Confusion that ceased and ended all construction.

Therefore the name of it was called Babel—because there the Lord confounded the language of all the earth; and from that place the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of the whole earth, Genesis 11:9.

The New Testament provides a solution to this Spirit of Confusion, the creation of global languages. The Day of Pentecost offers a reversal of this confusion in the form of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:1-6. Eyewitness of this supernatural event were astonished that they were able to hear a stranger speak to them in their own dialect. Like the words of Mary following the news that she would conceive a Savior without having intercourse, anything is possible with God, Luke 1:37, even overcoming a Spirit of Confusion.

by Jay Mankus

Listening for God’s Audible Voice

According to Jesus, listening and hearing are two separate things, Mark 4:9. One of Jesus’ common expressions is “he who has ears, let him hear.” Depending upon your attentive state, whoever is speaking may be boring or perk your curiosity. Based upon the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:24-27, listening inspires action. While atheists, liberals, and progressive Americans claim that God is dead; I believe listening for God’s audible voice is achievable, Galatians 5:25.

Now [in Haran] the Lord said to Abram, Go for yourself [for your own advantage] away from your country, from your relatives and your father’s house, to the land that I will show you, Genesis 12:1.

Like any relationship, levels of intimacy can change from one day to the next. While Moses writes down God’s first encounter with Abram in the passage above, what actually happened on this day likely contained more details. From a human point of view, Abram might have wondered if he was going crazy or the creator of the universe was really speaking to him? This initial encounter opened Abram’s mind to the possibility of listening for God’s audible voice.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice. 13 When Elijah heard the voice, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, What are you doing here, Elijah? – 1 Kings 19:11-13.

This is something the prophet Elijah also experienced in a powerful way. Based upon the passage above, there were a series of natural disasters which includes a tornado, earthquake and great fire. As this prophet was searching for answers to why these events were unleashed upon the earth, Elijah patiently listened for God’s audible voice. God didn’t send these down from heaven, they were simply part of nature on earth. As you take time to slow down by offering up prayers to God, listen for God’s audible voice, the Holy Spirit, so you can rebuke those who seek to blame God the next time bad things happen to good people.

by Jay Mankus

The Picture of Perfection

As a young aspiring athlete, my picture of perfection was the best player in every sport. Wayne Gretsky in hockey, Dr. J in basketball, Steve Carlton in baseball and Reggie White in football. Before the existence of social media, news was strictly based upon a player’s performance. Today, there is no picture of perfection as critics on the right and left pick apart rising stars like vultures during a feeding frenzy.

You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete [ak]maturity of godliness in mind and character, [al]having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect, Matthew 5:48.

The Sermon on the Mount points to perfection, but in the sense of striving towards it. The apostle Paul quotes an Old Testament prophet in Romans 3:9-12 to burst the bubble on human perfection. In case you haven’t heard, this is impossible as all men and women has fallen short of God’s glory despite how hard each has tried, Romans 3:23. Despite this painful reality, Hebrews 4:15-16 refers to Jesus as a great high priest who was a model of perfection, dying on our behalf.

For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), [d]recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live], Ephesians 2:10.

If life is meant to be a series of trial and error, sooner or later you’ll start to take steps toward perfection. The apostle Paul compares God to a spiritual potter, constantly molding and fashioning us into His image, Romans 9:20-21. Meanwhile, Paul compares God to a carpenter in the passage above. Depending upon your gifts and talents, the Holy Spirit seeks to guide you toward the good works God has planned for you in the future, Philippians 1:6. As you keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, may your life resemble the fruits if God’s Spirit like a picture of spiritual perfection.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 347: Friend Like That

As someone who has moved multiple times in life, true friends are hard to find. Whether it was moving from New Jersey to Delaware in Elementary School or from Delaware to Ohio in college, when you do finally relocate, you will find out who your real friends truly are. When none of them reach out to you after your departure, your friendship was more of an acquaintance than anything else. Perhaps, this is the inspiration behind Hawk Nelson’s song Friend Like That.

The man of many friends [a friend of all the world] will prove himself a bad friend, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, Proverbs 18:24.

King Solomon wrote about what a true friend meant to him in the passage above. Through the years, Christian artists have reflected upon this topic with songs by Geoff Moore, Michael W. Smith, and Steven Curtis Chapman. When a friend does stick closer than a brother, this kind of relationship becomes a spiritual treasure. As a new year begins, may the Holy Spirit inspire you to find a friend like that in 2023.

by Jay Mankus

Jesus Brings His Light into Dark Places

One of the first Christian songs I was introduced to was Pass It On. This campfire begins with “it only takes a spark to get a fire going.” During the first retreat I ever attended in high school, I was told by the Youth Director to “come as you are.” The context surrounding this Saturday night message was that Jesus meets you were you currently are in life. While many outside the church believe religion is about following a set of rules, Jesus brings His light into dark places to reach lost and lonely people, Luke 19:10.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your [z]moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and [aa]recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven, Matthew 5:14-16

The Sermon on the Mount is the only uninterrupted message presented by Jesus in the Bible. While the gospels are full of parables which illustrate spiritual truths, these 3 chapters (Matthew 5-7) highlight the need for followers of Jesus to shine their own light within their hearts into dark places on earth. The lives of Christians should add spiritual flavor to conversations as well as point to the city of a hill, (the local church) where the Holy Spirit thrives.

[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while [j]effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and [k]delight. 14 Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [[l]against God] and [m]questioning and doubting [among yourselves], 15 That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world, 16 Holding out [to it] and offering [to all men] the Word of Life, so that in the day of Christ I may have something of which exultantly to rejoice and glory in that I did not run my race in vain or spend my labor to no purpose, Philippians 2:13-16.

Hiding God’s light was not an option for the apostle Paul who spent his entire Christian life fulfilling the great commission, Acts 1:8. Paul personally experienced imprisonment and nearly died on a couple of occasions by brining Jesus’ light into dark places throughout the Middle East. Yet, despite the pain Paul endured, he called one congregation to become shinning spiritual stars by holding out the Bible to all nations. This is the model modern day Christians should emulate to shine God’s light into the darkness.

by Jay Mankus

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