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Obscured and Covered Up

Every day there are chances and opportunities to encounter God. Yet, busyness, other priorities, and a lack of time conceal most people from seeing individuals sent by God. Instead of stopping to chat, entertain or engage these divine messengers, blinders prevent most from even saying hello. Perhaps, the apostle Paul witnessed a similar pattern in the first century as spiritual truth was obscured and covered up.

But even if our Gospel (the glad tidings) also be hidden (obscured and covered up with a veil that hinders the knowledge of God), it is hidden [only] to those who are perishing and obscured [only] to those who are spiritually dying and veiled [only] to those who are lost, 2 Corinthians 4:3.

Paul blames this on the god of this age, Ephesians 2:2, who roams the earth as the ruler of the air. This fallen angel is not a fictional character in the latest Sci-fi film. Rather, Lucifer is real, using the same tactics that led Adam and Eve to break God’s only rule in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2:16-17. When you allow subtle compromises to bend your belief system, it doesn’t take long for bad habits to become full blown sin, James 1:13-15.

For the god of this world has blinded the unbelievers’ minds [that they should not discern the truth], preventing them from seeing the illuminating light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (the Messiah), Who is the Image and Likeness of God, 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Despite growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, the Gospel of Jesus was obscured and covered up. Church was a religious exercise for me, void of any personal relationship. Attending church quickly became a chore, not a forum to worship a living God. After 15 years of being close, my coach and mentor Ken Horne unveiled to me what Christianity was all about. Following a Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s event, my eyes were opened as I began my journey in faith, Romans 10:9-10. May this blog inspire you to unmask blinded minds of those whom you love today.

by Jay Mankus

Satan’s Pawn Shop

The reality television show Pawn Stars debuted on July 19th, 2009. Hosted by The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, a cast of characters and unique items have entertained Americans for more than a decade. Like a modern version of the Antique Roadshow, owner Rick Harrison discovers hidden treasures every episode. Yet, this popular show conceals the grim definition of pawn, “holding something hostage.”

For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and 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 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 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.

When you adopt and apply the term pawn to the spiritual dimension, Satan’s Pawn Shop includes human bodies held captive by sin. The apostle Paul compares this to a mindset focused on your carnal desires or the Holy Spirit. Natural inclinations lean toward gratifying your own fleshly desires. In the previous chapter, Paul details his own failures to keep his body in check, often doing the opposite of what he wanted to do, Romans 7:17-20.

Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, 20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Despite this dire condition, Paul reveals who came to the rescue, paying the price for those held hostage by Satan. This ransom was purchased when Jesus laid down his own life on a cross, 1 Timothy 2:6. While some may try to intervene on God’s behalf, Jesus is the only one who can redeem lives seized by Satan. As the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, the enemy is watching, eager to pounce upon weak and vulnerable souls. This is a typical day inside of Satan’s Pawn Shop highlighted by 1 Peter 5:8-9.

by Jay Mankus

Divided from the Will of God

The Bible refers to the concept of God having a plan for your life. From Old Testament prophets who write about future plans, Jeremiah 29:11, to the apostle Paul who suggests you can know God’s will, Romans 12:2, callings occur daily. This might be in the form of a convicted conscience, heart felt desire, some sort of dream or inspirational message. Meanwhile, first century Christians believed that each individual was born with a specific gift, personality or talent, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7. This spiritual gift is directly linked or tied to God’s will for your life. If God is the Potter, Romans 9:20-21, the will of God is an ongoing process as clay is molded and shaped, Philippians 1:6.

And the tempter came and said to Him, If You are God’s Son, command these stones to be made {loaves of} bread. But He replied, It has been written, Man shall not live and be upheld and sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God, Matthew 4:3-4.

Before beginning his earthly ministry, Jesus withdrew into the wilderness to spiritually prepare himself for this 3 year journey. Understanding the threats He would face, Jesus fasted and prayed to clarify God’s plan like which twelve men to choose to become his disciples. At the conclusion of these preparations, the Devil attempted to separate Jesus from the will of His heavenly father. Jesus had the power to fulfill each request, but what the Devil was asking is outside of God’s will. Each tempting situation was geared toward a specific area of Jesus’ life. Physical hunger, mental acuity, and spiritual obedience. These 3 types of scenarios represent how individuals are tempted daily, aimed at separating human beings from the will of God.

And he said to Him, If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, He will give His angels charge over you, and they will bear you up on their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone. Jesus said to him, On the other hand, it is written also, You shall not tempt, test thoroughly, or try exceedingly the Lord your God, Matthew 4:6-7.

The apostle Paul unlocks the key to overcoming temptation in 1 Corinthians 10:13. When confronted by the father of lies, John 8:44, Jesus kept looking for the way out. To overcome hunger, Jesus relied on the Word of God, quoting a verse from the Torah. To escape a dare which He was able to demonstrate, Jesus uses the Bible to correct the Devil’s misuse of Scripture. After gaining authority over the earth, Ephesians 2:2, the Devil offers this to Jesus. However, this request is directly opposed to the first commandment. Thus, Jesus finds the way out each time, refusing to deviate from God’s plan.

Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory (the splendor, magnificence, preeminence, and excellence) of them. And he said to Him, These things, all taken together, I will give You, if You will prostrate Yourself before me and do homage and worship me. 10 Then Jesus said to him, Begone, Satan! For it has been written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him alone shall you serve.

Every human being has a weakness, sinful tendencies that they have a hard time resisting, Romans 7:15-17. As the ruler of the air, the Devil doesn’t need drones or hidden cameras, he sees and knows our weaknesses. Perhaps, this explains why so many former Christians have abandoned their faith, prodigals who have yet to come to their senses. Each decision you make has a blessing or consequence. Good choices keep you on track, but poor decisions cause you to drift further and further away from God. Freewill gives you the freedom to do whatever you want. However, at what point will you consider God’s calling, plan and will for your life? Whatever you decide, hold on to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

The Gravational Pull Between Good and Evil

The invisible force that causes massive objects to pull other objects toward them is known as a gravitational pull.  When a professional athlete jumps into the air, the earth’s gravitational pull forces them back to the ground.  Early theologians developed the concept of dualism to help explain a similar pull between good and evil.  Dualism believes there are two independent powers behind everything that happens, one good and the other bad.  In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis states that the universe is the battlefield in which this endless war is fought.

But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the [sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts], Galatians 5:16.

Prior to introducing the concept of the armor of God to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul describes the gravitational pull between good and evil.  Unlike dualism, these invisible forces are clearly defined.  In the right corner, the Holy Spirit is a guiding light, directing, prompting and urging souls to choose obedience in accordance with biblical law.  Meanwhile, the sinful nature opposes God’s Spirit, using impulses, lust and temporary pleasures to entice individuals to break God’s law.  Angels and demons fight for souls in the spiritual realm, pulling hearts and minds in different directions.

For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do, Galatians 5:17.

One of the weapons the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, uses is misinformation.  Going back to the Garden of Eden, Lucifer planted doubt within the mind of Eve by suggesting, “did God really say that?”  Replacing truth with justification and rationalization, the gravitational pull of sin is hard to resist, James 1:13-15.  Meanwhile, the Lord uses confession, James 5:16, pouring out grace and mercy upon willing participants to pull people back into fellowship with God.  In view of this wrestling match between good and evil, keep in step with the Holy Spirit so that your eternal destination will be secured, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Beware of Satan’s Natural Language

The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming around on the earth and from walking around on it,” Job 1:7.

Lucifer was once an arch angel, an anointed Cherub according to Ezekiel 28:14.  An angel of song and one of the most beautiful creatures in all of heaven, Satan exercised free will.  This decision resulted in his expulsion from heaven, cast down to earth.  Despite this demotion, Satan is recognized as the ruler of the air by the apostle Paul, Ephesians 2:2, maintaining his angelic powers.  This supernatural ability enables Satan to scan the earth quickly, preying upon weak and vulnerable souls, 1 Peter 5:8.

Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! Yes, a man will give all he has for his life. But put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh [and severely afflict him]; and he will curse You to Your face,” Job 2:4-5.

Satan’s first victim is a curious woman, attracted to a beautiful tree with luscious fruit.  Entering into a serpent, this crafty being planted doubt within the minds of human beings.  Questioning the only rule given to Adam as caretaker of the Garden of Eden, Satan challenged God’s authority, using logic and justification to promote sin.  After successfully lying to Adam and Eve, Satan set his sights on taking down Job.  Asking God for permission, illness is introduced to earth, striking Job’s body.  The goal of this affliction is to force Job, a man of integrity to curse God.  While Satan’s second attack was unsuccessful, imagine the array of tricks Satan uses today to encourage individuals to deny God.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies, John 8:44.

During a discourse about what it means to be a true disciple, Jesus unmasks Satan’s natural language.  The founder of half truths, Satan hides behind lies, convincing the uninformed that compromise, lust and temporary pleasures is okay to do every once in a while.  During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells the crowd, where your heart is, there your treasure will be also, Matthew 6:19-21.  Giving into any sort of subtle deviation from the truth plays into the hand of the Devil.  To ensure that future believers don’t fall into this trap, the apostle Paul urges people to test everything that you hear, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.  Any type of careless response to unproven information sets you up for failure, deceived by the father of lies.  Therefore, be alert, on guard and prepared for smooth talkers seeking to persuade you into believing a lie.

by Jay Mankus

Taking as Many People with You as Possible

During a visit to the city of Corinth, the apostle Paul discovered a passionate group of sports fans.  Instead of modern sports like basketball or football, Corinthians embraced Track and Field as host of a Summer Olympics type of annual event.  Thus, Paul felt compelled to use words in one of his letters that appealed to this culture.  Within 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul compares evangelism with a race, hoping to win as many people as possible to Jesus Christ.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell, Matthew 10:28.

Years earlier, Jesus reveals an interesting concept to his disciples in the passage above.  While speaking about persecution, Jesus provides a heavenly perspective to a common event followers of Christ will encounter.  Human nature tends to make individuals fearful of what other people think of you.  However, Jesus warns the disciples about worrying about the wrong thing.  Rather, be on guard against the Devil, the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, who uses temptation to ensnare souls toward a life in hell, eternally separated from God.

Who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time, 1 Timothy 2:6.

The Bible is filled with promises about life and the future.  John 3:16-17 reveals why God the Father sent his son Jesus to earth.  Upon completing God’s will for his life on earth, Jesus gave himself up as a ransom, paying the price for the sins of mankind.  This selfless act made it possible for fallen creatures to have a place in heaven, John 14:1-4.  Thus, anyone who makes their eternal reservation, 1 John 5:13, should want to take as many people with you as possible.  May the hope of a new year inspire souls to fulfill the great commission, Mark 16:15-16 so that the afterlife will serve as a great big family reunion in the sky.

by Jay Mankus

Greater is He Who is In You

One of Jesus’ disciples makes a power statement in a collection of small books known as the Catholic Epistles.  One specific letter written by John addresses the two opposing forces within this world.  The first, the Holy Spirit and latter the ruler of the air, Satan.  Although both are invisible, John wants to encourage those who may be fighting a losing battle that God is greater.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world, 1 John 4:4.

However, stating this and believing it are two different things.  Whether you’re an athlete, competitive or trying your best to survive, experiencing a series of failures can break anyone’s momentum.  The devil preys on doubt, planting seeds within minds to second guess God’s power and who really is in control.  Subsequently, even the confident go through periods of darkness, fighting inner demons which seek to attack your heart, soul and mind.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds, 2 Corinthians 10:4.

At some point, the disciples passes the Christian torch to the apostle Paul whose missionary journeys gave birth to churches throughout the Middle East, Europe and Africa.  According to Paul, the only way to stand your ground against the enemy involves changing your tactics.  Whenever faith begins to falter or wilt, taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ is crucial.  As soon as this discipline is put into practice, then and only then will you truly believe that greater is He who is in you than is in the world.

by Jay Mankus

Abracadabra

In a world where self gratification is in a tug of war with reality, a growing trend is emerging which is disappointing, but not unexpected.  Like the old Steven Miller Band song, Christians are waiting for God to snap his fingers, to magically make all of life’s problems vanish from thin air.  Instead of pulling a rabbit of a His hat, God has taken a back seat, allowing Satan to temporarily be the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2.

Today’s white magic was foretold by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 as the devil himself masquerades as an angel of light.  I am not sure if the Hollywood rumors are true, yet some insiders claim that a few desperate for fame, power and success have sold their soul to the devil in return for what he offered Jesus in Matthew 4:8-9.   Jesus went far out of his way to convince people in his day to avoid falling for this trick, Matthew 16:26.  Unfortunately, the impatient seek alternative measures that include the dark side of life.

Rather than say Abracadabra, God’s ways are different from man’s plans or vision of life, Proverbs 19:21.  Open from the beginning, the Lord seeks to move individuals, little by little, Exodus 23:30.  Perhaps this may explain Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the desert prior to entering the Promised Land, as there weren’t mature or ready enough to handle success.  Persuaded by humility, the Lord slowly brought his children along until the time was right, Ecclesiastes 3:11.  May we all learn this difficult lesson as we seek to fulfill John 10:10 and Romans 12:2.

by Jay Mankus

Escaping the Dungeon of Doubt

Although their initial origin is disputed, the word dungeon is likely derived from the Frankish term dungjo, referring to a vault, a concealed and hidden space.  By the 14th century, the English developed underground prisons within their castles also known as oubliettes due to their typical shape and design.  According to Genesis 41:14, prisoners went without bathing or shaving, stuck in a living hell hole on earth.  In Joseph’s case, he was waiting on God for more than 2 years to set him free.

Today, these man made structures have been replaced by an invisible pit, deep inside the human soul.  Formed by doubt, this dungeon is like a haunted house, creepy, dark and void of hope.  When an individual appears to be reaching the top of this hole, disbelief and skepticism often hinder progress as the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, maintains his grip, holding a saint in bondage for yet another day, Ephesians 6:12.  While self conceit and doubt wrestle for control, a life filled with disappointment serves as dark clouds, blocking any rays of optimism, paralyzing a believer from fully escaping.

Like a patient receiving medical attention, nightmares, scars and seeds of doubt linger after your release.  The human mind serves as a sponge, absorbing the trauma you have endured, playing tricks on you once freed from the devil’s talons.  Thus, one needs a spiritual reboot, cleansing all the viruses you have been infected by through the word of God, Colossians 2:6-8.  The Bible presents people with truth serum, replacing doubt with faith, Romans 10:17.  While not fully healed until heaven, Psalm 119:105 introduces curious onlookers to the only full proof escape route from the dungeon of doubt.

by Jay Mankus

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