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Tag Archives: the New Testament

Apart From the Spirit

Kryptonite is a fictional material created by the writers of Superman. This crystalline material originated from the planet Krypton where Superman was born. Following Krypton’s explosion, pieces of Kryptonite gradually fell upon planet earth like meteorites. To an earthling Kryptonite was just a rock. However, this crystalline emits a unique radiation that weakens Superman. For human beings today, the sinful nature is our Kryptonite.

For as the human body apart from the spirit is lifeless, so faith apart from [its] works of obedience is also dead, James 2:26.

The New Testament is filled with advice from Jesus and warnings from apostles and former disciples. Jesus uses the analogy of a gardener in John 15:1-8 to stay connected to the Vine. Paul refers to a human nature in Galatians 5:16-21 which is like Superman’s Kryptonite. Meanwhile, the earthly brother of Jesus reflects upon his own life in the passage above when he drifted away from the Holy Spirit.

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, Romans 8:5.

The apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter to the consequences of living apart from God’s Spirit. Romans 8 serves as a series of Pros and Cons of what life will be like with and apart from the Holy Spirit. Depending upon your mindset when you wake up each morning will dictate how you will live. As Moses once said, choices have consequences, Deuteronomy 30:15-18. If you find yourself wavering toward the dark side, remember the words of 2 Peter 1:3-4 so you’ll be reunited with the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

The Greatest Gift of All

At the end of every year, talk shows reflect upon the current one to ascertain the best and greatest moments. Political programs focus on accomplishments and failures while sports talk tends to debate the greatest of all time. As another Christmas Day arrives, your mind may wander to consider the greatest gift you have ever received. Yet, there is one gift found in the Bible that claims to be eternal.

For the wages which sin pays is death, but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through (in union with) Jesus Christ our Lord, Romans 6:23.

Comparing gifts and presents from year to year may uplift a generous giver in your family. Yet, the older I become, a gift may simply be having your entire family present for Christmas. While it’s hard to fathom the greatest gift I’ve ever received over the past 52 years, my favorite was a letter from a friend in college. After going an entire semester without hearing from them, opening this card brought tears of joy to me.

And this is that testimony (that evidence): God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who possesses the Son has that life; he who does not possess the Son of God does not have that life. 13 I write this to you who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) the name of the Son of God [in [c]the peculiar services and blessings conferred by Him on men], so that you may know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have life, [d]yes, eternal life, 1 John 5:11-13.

The New Testament of the Bible mentions the greatest spiritual gift ever provided to mankind. A Pharisee named Nicodemus was the first to hear about this future offering in John 3:16-17. The apostle Paul eludes to this in a letter to the Church at Rome. Meanwhile, the earthly brother of Jesus refers to an assurance of this eternal gift. All you have to do is accept Jesus into your life as a personal Lord and Savior. While you may receive many gifts this Christmas, eternal life in heaven is the greatest gift of all.

by Jay Mankus

Going Beyond Just Being a Religious Person

When I studied the New Testament for the first time, my perception of religion changed. I guess being a good person was so ingrained into my head while being raised in a Roman Catholic Church, I overlooked the message of the gospel. The apostle Paul taught me that no matter how hard I tried to please God, following religious practices only takes you so far, Romans 3:9-12. Subsequently, I was no better than the prodigal son, a sinner in desperate need of a Savior.

Then when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father have enough food, and [even food] to spare, but I am perishing (dying) here of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants, Luke 15:17-19.

When I read the Bible sometimes, thoughts like “I can’t believe they did that” race through my mind. Yet, if the tables were turned and I was living in the first century, I’m sure I wouldn’t like the person who would portray me. Despite attempting to live a decent, good and upright life, I’ve made my own spiritual messes. I’ve squandered money like the prodigal son on all sorts of temporary pleasures. Just when I thought I hit the bottom of the barrel, I broke through to reach lower depths.

So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [[j]fervently]. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son [I no longer deserve to be recognized as a son of yours]! 22 But the father said to his bond servants, Bring quickly the best robe (the festive robe of honor) and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet. 23 And bring out [k]that [wheat-]fattened calf and kill it; and let us [l]revel and feast and be happy and make merry, 24 Because this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! And they began to [m]revel and feast and make merry, Luke 15:20-24.

One of the lesser stressed parts of this parable is the type of a relationship that God desires. When you finally come to your senses, asking for forgiveness and mercy is just the beginning. While Jesus suggests Christians should strive for perfection in Matthew 5:48, this is merely a religious exercise. Rather, Jesus wants a permanent meaningful lasting relationship. If you’re tired of being a flawed perfectionist, it’s time to move beyond being a religious person toward a special connection with God, John 3:16-17.

by Jay Mankus

The Sequence of Story

A sequence is a particular order in which related events, movements, or things follow each other. In the process of telling a story, the best communicators set the scene using what some writers refer to as the 10 magic words. This information highlights who a story is about and details the journey which is about to begin. Depending upon the author or story teller, the sequence of story involves a beginning, middle and end.

Then the disciples came to Him and said, Why do You speak to them in parables? 11 And He replied to them, To you it has been given to know the secrets and mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given, Matthew 13:10-11.

From a biblical perspective, the son of God used parables to connect with first century citizens. A parable is story structure used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson as told by Jesus in the Gospels. The New Testament details 46 different parables as Jesus tried to explain mysteries and secrets of the kingdom of heaven. My favorite is the Parable of the Sower as Jesus reveals how the environment in which you live influences the person that you become.

Paul, Silvanus (Silas), and Timothy, to the assembly (church) of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah): Grace (spiritual blessing and divine favor) to you and [heart] peace. We are ever giving thanks to God for all of you, continually mentioning [you when engaged] in our prayers, Recalling unceasingly before our God and Father your work energized by faith and service motivated by love and unwavering hope in [the return of] our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah). [O] brethren beloved by God, we recognize and know that He has selected (chosen) you;For our [preaching of the] glad tidings (the Gospel) came to you not only in word, but also in [its own inherent] power and in the Holy Spirit and with great conviction and absolute certainty [on our part]. You know what kind of men we proved [ourselves] to be among you for your good, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5.

While writing 13 letters known as epistles, the apostle Paul developed a story structure known as U Centered Writing. Paul regularly starts his letters by getting the attention and gaining the interest of fellow Christians. Once this is accomplished, Paul creates a felt need, a flaw or weakness that believers need to work on. The remainder of his letters are designed to create a sense of urgency so that a commitment to change is conceived. Whether you’re writing a letter, telling a story or working on a screen play, stories continue to speak to human hearts and provide hope or inspiration to make a difference in the life that God has given you.

by Jay Mankus

The Mystery Kept Hidden Through the Ages

Battles, conflicts, and wars can extend beyond a generation. The Arauco War between Spain and the Mapuche Tribe spanned 3 centuries, beginning in 1536 before ending in1825. Meanwhile, the Reconquista War is recognized as the longest lasting battle on earth, ending 780 years after it began. However, there is a spiritual conflict that remains ongoing. This began when the archangel Lucifer was kicked out of heaven in Ezekiel 28:12-19. Not wanting to go down without a fight, Lucifer took the form of a serpent to stake his claim on earth as the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2.

And the Lord God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all [domestic] animals and above every [wild] living thing of the field; upon your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust [and what it contains] all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring; He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel, Genesis 3:14-15.

Desperate this temporary loss, God had another plan up His sleeves. The mystery kept hidden for the ages is slipped into the passage above, a glimpse of what lies in wait for the future. What makes this mystery intriguing is the 400 years of silence between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Based upon the reign of Herod the Great, Jesus was born sometime around 4 BC. Although it’s unclear if current calendar’s are off by 4 years, first century Jews were not in agreement on exactly who the promised Messiah would be.

Also to enlighten all men and make plain to them what is the plan [regarding the Gentiles and providing for the salvation of all men] of the mystery kept hidden through the ages and concealed until now in [the mind of] God Who created all things by Christ Jesus, Ephesians 3:9.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are designed to fill in the gaps between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Thus, as Jesus’ earthly ministry came to an end and the apostles picked up this spiritual baton, Jews and Gentiles were introduced to God’s master plan, put into place following the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. As Paul carried out the Great Commission via his missionary journeys in the book of Acts, Paul describes Jesus as the second Adam, Romans 5:12-21. This is where the mystery of the ages is brought to light and proclaimed to the world, John 3:16-17.

by Jay Mankus

The Anatomy of Story

Author John Trudy released his first edition of The Anatomy of Story in 2008. One of the goals of this book is to provide 22 Steps on how to become a master storyteller. As an expert in the field of writing screenplays, Trudy attempts to help amateur writers who don’t quite understand this process well enough. Beside the Anatomy of Story, Trudy shares his secrets for writing a compelling script on podcasts as a guest speaker and teaches writing courses across the country.

As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s office; and He said to him, Be My disciple [side with My party and follow Me]. And he rose and followed Him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and [especially wicked] sinners came and sat (reclined) with Him and His disciples, Matthew 9:9-10.

The Bible contains it’s own master story teller. Using a technique known as parables, the New Testament records 42 accounts scattered throughout the 4 gospels. Jesus masters the art of communication with a simple story that relates to common citizens. Instead of speaking down to individuals as the Son of God, Jesus meets people where they are, using parables to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. Rather than spoon feed his audience, Jesus uses riddles to force listeners to figure his message out on their own.

And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and those [preeminently] sinful? 12 But when Jesus heard it, He replied, Those who are strong and well (healthy) have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy [that is, readiness to help those in trouble] and not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. For I came not to call and invite [to repentance] the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin), Matthew 9:11-13.

Prior to the days of cable television and the internet, American families sat at their kitchen table every night for dinner. Instead of eating quickly before heading off in your own direction, this time was set aside to share what happened to you during the day. While I didn’t enjoy being forced to sit in the same place for 30 minutes, my mom or dad always shared an interesting story to pass the time. As an introvert, COVID-19 has forced many to live this past year in isolation. Yet, I long for the day when families can recline together without wearing a mask to rediscover the anatomy of story.

by Jay Mankus

If I Could Coax You for a Minute

Coax is one of those words that might be used in the first round of a spelling bee, but is often replaced in daily conversations with more common expressions. Coaxing someone refers to persuading gradually, typically by flattery to draw individuals toward your point of view. In a first century letter to a church that he helped plant, the apostle Paul is disappointed by recent news of the Galatians’ spiritual slide. Thus, Paul devotes an entire chapter to coax these Christians back on track by using the good news about Jesus Christ.

Would that I were with you now and could coax you vocally, for I am fearful and perplexed about you! – Galatians 4:20

While writing a teenager pastor, Paul paints a dark picture of what this leader will have to confront and face in the near future. The Bible contains 55 passages that reference end times, with several of these accounts in the New Testament. The apostles regularly urged first century Christians to have a sense of urgency, living each day as if Jesus will return today to judge the living and the dead. Yet, when a day comes and goes, demons and seducing spirits are on the prowl, a spiritual predator lying in wait for the weak and wounded.

But the [Holy] Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach, Through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared (cauterized), 1 Timothy 4:1-2.

Thus, if I could coax you for a minute, take a moment to examine the world around. Why are people angry? What is the source of hatred? Is this country truly falling apart of like the media suggests or is this simply a ploy to hide evil intentions? Is former president Trump really as evil as he’s portrayed on television or is Satan disguising himself as an angel of light to deceive the masses? If you really want to know what’s going on in the world, turn your attention to the spiritual realm and you might be surprised by what you find, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.

by Jay Mankus

Where is the Spirit of the Lord?

Prior to the New Testament, the Spirit of the Lord is described as a presence that takes over your body. Similar to a momentum swing during a sporting event, an inner confidence spreads as teammates begin to believe that victory is on the way, 1 Samuel 16:13-14. However, the Spirit of the Lord also has the ability to depart as well, like it did for King Saul. If God’s Spirit can come and go, learning to keep in step with the Holy Spirit is essential, Galatians 5:25.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom), 2 Corinthians 3:17.

Yet, the apostle Paul adds another element to the Spirit of the Lord in the passage above. Similar to his words on the fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, Paul explains what the Holy Spirit can do for you. First and foremost, the Spirit of the Lord brings freedom to those formally held hostage by addictions and cravings of their flesh. When the Spirit of the Lord is present, liberty is made possible through repentance.

And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit, 2 Corinthians 3:18.

The Bible serves as a spiritual mirror for all human beings. If you are not reading and studying the Bible on a daily basis, God’s reflection slowly disappears. Thus, the Bible serves as a wardrobe, the entrance to the Holy Spirit like C.S. Lewis’ the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The more you open this living book, the greater your chances increase for accessing the Spirit of the Lord, Romans 10:17. As you draw near to God, the Spirit of the Lord will come close to you, James 4:7-8.

by Jay Mankus

Is God Really on Your Side?

Two weeks ago a speech during a protest in Southern California set social media on fire.  United States representative Maxine Waters turned her small podium into a pulpit stirring members of the audience.  When I heard the initial audio of this message, Waters sounded like a preacher speaking to the choir as the crowds chimed back in agreement.  Beside encouraging supporters to harass members of president Trump’s political team, there was one other statement that got my attention.  Representative Waters believed she was doing God’s work with the Lord on her side.  This comment led me to ponder, how do you know if God is truly on your side?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

After his conversion from Judaism to faith in Christ, first century believers initially thought Saul from Tarsus was merely pretending as a plot to destroy the apostles and disciples of Jesus.  This surprising development perplexed his fellow Jews, especially after overseeing the death of Stephen in Acts 7 and further persecution by ravaging church members in Acts 8.  I guess you can say Saul who became the apostle Paul played both sides of the fence until the Holy Spirit transformed his ways.  According to Acts 9:23-25, the Jewiish leaders quickly turned on Saul, plotting to kill Saul.  After escaping death, Paul’s missionary trips throughout the Middle East, North Africa and southern Europe clearly demonstrated that God was on Paul’s side.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ, Philippians 1:6.

In the days of the Old Testament, God’s favor was recognized through a series of blessings, Deuteronomy 29:1-14.  While some may rationalize a few good breaks as lucky, those who live in accordance with God’s commands receive special anointings.  Eye witnesses of these individuals referred to their encounters as if God was walking by their side.  Meanwhile, the New Testament uses a different standard.  God will bring to completion the gifts, resources and talents of those who remain faithful and true to God’s calling.  Spiritual harvests are a sign that God is with specific people.  While time will tell if God is on Maxine Waters’ side, don’t leave this up to chance. Rather, set out to be a good and faithful servant to that which God has given you.  If you do, you will receive eternal crowns in heaven while letting your actions do the taking for you.

by Jay Mankus

An Imperfect Process

During a recent writing session, a friend asked me how I have been able to write over 2000 blog posts.  After a pausing a moment, the hardest part is making sure you don’t repeat yourself.  Coming up with new content is an imperfect process, trial and error filled with as many failures as success.  Some of my personal favorites end up bombing with little views with mediocre posts often receiving surprising interest.  Yet, some never make the final cut, deleted, erased or put on hold until the timing is right.

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written, John 21:25.

During a seminary class on the New Testament, I discovered the 66 books of the Bible had a similar process.  The Council of Jamnia was held in Yavneh sometime around 90 AD to canonize the 39 books of the modern Old Testament.  Some of Solomon’s Proverbs and the Book of Wisdom were excluded from this list.  Meanwhile, the council of Nicaea met in 325 to complete the same process for first century epistles inspired by Jesus for the New Testament.  Two letters written by the apostle Paul to Corinth were left off, not deemed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16.

Thus, when you read the letters to the Corinthians, you only have half the story.  On one occasion, the apostle Paul received disturbing news about the spiritual regression of new Christians living in Corinth.  Paul was so upset that a spirit of angry filled one of this excluded letters.  Perhaps, after proof reading his words, Paul was consumed with guilt, deciding not to send this it with a messenger.  This story serves as a teachable moment to think before you speak, reflect before you hit send or exercise self-discipline when your frustrated.  While every writer strives for perfection, imperfect people do their best to share what God puts on their hearts.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

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