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Fitness for the Soul

Prior to the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, there were 41,370 fitness centers in the United States. Depending upon where you live, most of these local gyms are in walking distance or less than 10 miles from where your reside. Whether you prefer exercise bicycles, treadmills or lifting weights, if you want to get in shape prices often range from $10-20 per month. If you need a friend to hold you accountable, most facilities often a special rate for guests. If you can’t afford this, there are always local parks with fitness trails with detailed instructions to follow for you to remain fit.

For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

In his first letter to a teenager pastor, the apostle Paul wanted Timothy to not get caught up in physical fitness. While exercise is needed to stay in shape, fitness for your soul is much more important in the long run. Paul ends his first letter to Timothy with an illustration of what spiritual fitness resembles, 1 Timothy 6:11. The pursuit of happiness is an honorable quest, but fitness for the soul begins by pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Along the way, fight the good fight as you strive to emulate Jesus.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-2.

The author of Hebrews adds a different dimension to fitness for the soul in the passage above. As you work out physically and spiritually, remember the advice passed on to you by former coaches, mentors and teachers. If parts of your life begin to spin out of control, unload everything that is tripping you up or weighing you down. As you do this, keep your eyes focused on the cross since when runners get tired, the first thing that occurs is that heads slouch, forcing eyes to stare at the ground. If you keep your eyes fixed on the finish line, God will give you the vision to maintain fitness for your soul.

by Jay Mankus

When a Feeling Passes

The American rock band Boston released More than a Feeling as the lead single from their Eponymous debut album in 1976. According to Tom Scholz who wrote this classic ballad, this song was inspired by a fantasy event, dreaming of his days with Marianne. When you’re having a bad day, a positive dream that comes out of nowhere often provides hope. Yet, when dreams don’t come true, feelings of optimism fade away leaving behind doubt and emptiness.

[Oh, I know, I have been rash to talk out plainly this way to God!] I will [in my thinking] stand upon my post of observation and station myself on the tower or fortress, and will watch to see what He will say within me and what answer I will make [as His mouthpiece] to the perplexities of my complaint against Him, Habakkuk 2:1.

I have a bad habit of reading too much into conversations and personal encounters. When I am unable to clarify or understand someone’s intent, senses often turn into feelings. If a co-worker is around, I’ll double check to see if my instincts are correct. Unfortunately, most of the time, my gut reaction to a situation doesn’t consider all the variables that exist. Thus, when my feeling passes, what I see isn’t reality.

And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by. For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfillment]; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day, Habakkuk 2:2-3.

The Old Testament places a high priority on vision. Instead of going through life chasing after feelings, the Bible urges it’s readers to become vision oriented. The prophet Hosea claims that people perish when they go through life without knowledge of a clear vision. When a feeling passes, where to go or what to do is uncertain. If you want to live with a clear purpose and reason, ask the Lord for vision so that this can be engraved within your heart.

by Jay Mankus

Pharmakia

The Greek word pharmakia appears five times in the New Testament. Outside of the book of Revelation, the only other reference of pharmakia occurs in the passage below. Pharmakia is where we derive the English term pharmacy. However, this word can also refer to sorcery and witchcraft. What the apostle Paul is trying to express in the acts of the sinful nature is that human bodies can come under the influence of a foreign spirit such as wine or a demonic entity.

Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), Galatians 5:20.

In the passage below, one of Jesus’ disciples has a vision of the future. This image narrows in on what will happen in the last days on the earth. According to John, there will be a lack of personal responsibility. Instead of confessing sins, people will choose to justify and rationalize their own actions. This form of denial is similar to an individual under the influence of a drug who is not in their right mind.

And the rest of humanity who were not killed by these plagues even then did not repent of [the worship of] the works of their [own] hands, so as to cease paying homage to the demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor move. 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their practice of magic (sorceries) or their sexual vice or their thefts, Revelation 9:20-21.

If Satan can appear as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, what you see can be deceiving. The term sober is found 12 times in the Bible. If your mind is affected by some form of pharmakia, your decision making will be impaired. Therefore, if you want to overcome the various temptations which lurk around every corner in life, being sober is essential. Despite laws to legalize marijuana, a gateway drug, be sober so that you can take your stand against future Satanic schemes, Ephesians 6:12.

by Jay Mankus

When Knee Jerk Decisions Prolong the Length of Your Storm

Movies are filled with bad decisions which form the plot of a screenplay. Anger, curiosity, knee jerk reactions or pride often make a difficult situation even worse. In the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Skandar Kaynes plays Edmund Pevensie, the third youngest child who suffers from an inferiority complex. When Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are deported from London to the house of an eccentric professor during World War 2, Lucy discovers the magical land of Narnia. However, when Peter follows his younger sister into the Wardrobe (the portal to Narnia) the following day, an encounter with the White Witch places his entire family in danger.

As we were being dangerously tossed about by the violence of the storm, the next day they began to throw the freight overboard; 19 And the third day they threw out with their own hands the ship’s equipment (the tackle and the furniture). 20 And when neither sun nor stars were visible for many days and no small tempest kept raging about us, all hope of our being saved was finally abandoned, Acts 27:18-20.

Sailing on an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy, a northeaster disrupts Paul’s trip to Rome. The winds did not let up for several days, slowing the progress of this journey. Warning the crew about a vision he received from God, Acts 27:10, the centurion did not listen, convincing by the captain and owner of this vessel to press on. According to the passage above, conditions continued to worsen as the sun, moon and stars were not visible as the storm blocked out any signs of light. Unfortunately, many Christians go unheard as experts follow science rather than follow the voice of God.

Then as they had eaten nothing for a long time, Paul came forward into their midst and said, Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have put to sea from Crete and brought on this disaster and harm and misery and loss. 22 But [even] now I beg you to be in good spirits and take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you but only of the ship. 23 For this [very] night there stood by my side an angel of the God to Whom I belong and Whom I serve and worship, 24 And he said, Do not be frightened, Paul! It is necessary for you to stand before Caesar; and behold, God has given you all those who are sailing with you. 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith (complete confidence) in God that it will be exactly as it was told me; Acts 27:21-25.

Pastor’s during the Coronavirus face a similar situation today. As local and state officials are placing bans or limits on the number of individuals who can attend church, spiritual leaders are in a difficult spot. Do elders make knee jerk reactions by disregarding state mandates or carefully follow social distancing standards? Human nature tends to lead people to push the limits. Meanwhile, common sense leads human beings to be responsible by putting the needs of others in place of yourself. Whatever circumstance or trial that you face in 2021, make sure that knee jerk reactions don’t prolong the length of your current storm.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Leave God on the Outside Looking In

One of the greatest lies the Devil perpetuates today is that God is going to punish you, This implanted thought causes some to give up hope, believing that they will never be good enough for God. Subsequently, those who develop and embrace this ungodly belief will keep God at a distance. Rather than accept the biblical fact that God disciplines those who He loves, a barrier is built up over time, keeping God on the outside looking in.

Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude], Revelation 3:19.

While on the island of Patmos, one of Jesus’ disciples has a vision of what a relationship with God is like. Instead of barging into our rooms to examine what you’ve done wrong, God is patiently waiting to be welcomed inside. Eager to get your attention, God has a way of knocking on certain aspects of your life. Like leaving a trail a bread crumbs, the Lord has a way of providing signals to let you know He’s only a pray away. Nonetheless, Jesus will remain outside in the cold until you let him into your heart, Romans 10:9-10.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me, Revelation 3:20.

Unfortunately, human timing and God’s timing often clash. When you’re ready to open up and become vulnerable, something immediately interrupts you from God. Meanwhile, you may be busy, consumed by what you are working on, leaving little or no time for a spiritual conversation. Most human beings don’t do this on purpose, but way too many individuals go through life leaving God on the outside looking in. May this blog inspire you to make room in your busy schedule for Jesus this Christmas.

by Jay Mankus

Inspiration Doesn’t Follow a Schedule

The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something is known as inspiration. This invisible force tends to reveal itself in the form of artistry, creativity, flair, imagination, and vision. While attending a youth ministry trade school more than 25 years ago, I was introduced to Green Light Thinking. This exercise channels inspiration from our minds on to a piece of paper. During this 5 minute period, there is no such thing as a bad idea, writing down every inspirational thought.

Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), 17 So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

According to the apostle Paul, authors of the Bible were inspired by divine forces. Whether morning, day or night, inspiration doesn’t follow a schedule. Like momentum that fluctuates back and forth in a close athletic competition, spectators are on the edge of their seats until the end of the game. This is the type of anticipation that Christians should experience each time they open up the Word of God. When hearts and minds become open to the spiritual realm like a sponge, inspiration will flow.

But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future], John 16:13.

During a conversation with his disciples, Jesus unveils what the Holy Spirit will resemble when it arrives on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2. This invisible Spirit is like a personal guide to direct you toward the Truth, the meaning of life. There isn’t a set place or time to meet. Rather, the Holy Spirit counsels those of you who are paying attention, keeping in step with this inspirational force, Galatians 5:25. Despite what your daily schedule may bring, may you be open to the possibility so that you go with inspiration when it arrives.

by Jay Mankus

Losing Sight of God

While special horses are trained to become thoroughbreds, horses can’t see everything in it’s peripheral vision. To avoid horses from becoming distracted or scared, blinders are used to keep the horse focused on what is in front of it. Controlling a horse at 40 miles per hour requires a rare combination of strength and lightness for a jockey. Those jockeys who do the best at keeping their horse focused on the finish line, tend to accumulate more victories.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

Unfortunately, I share similar traits with horses, often veering off course. I tend to become so consumed and fixated on what I am doing that I lose track of time. The clearer you are about your vision in life, the greater the impact you will have in the world. Vision is the ability to think about or plan your future with imagination, insight and wisdom. Whenever I stray from my dreams and goals, my vision grows dim.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you that you shall be no priest to Me; seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children, Hosea 4:6.

An Old Testament prophet blames a lack of knowledge for those who fail to reach their full potential. At the time that Hosea pens this letter, Israel began to do what was right in their own eyes. Instead of following the ten commandments, many were blinded by worldly beliefs and principles. A similar trend is taking place today as progressive ideas have been embraced by many churches. Thus, losing sight of God becomes an unpleasant reality. If you’re ready to regain focus on God, do so with perseverance, fixated on the cross of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

A Special Endowment from God

Leadership is the action of leading a group of people through hardship, ordeals and trials. Genuine leaders cast a vision, take the initiative as a trail blazers to show the way and direct and guide followers through difficult times. Researchers have uncovered 12 different leadership styles that exist. A leadership style is merely the way a person uses power to lead other people. If you are still stuck at home as a non-essential worker, you’ve probably seen rogue governors of several states using the national guard and police officers to enforce their specific declarations. Several of these ordinances are unconstitutional, but these leaders are using fear of the Coronavirus to control American citizens.

Let no one despise or think less of you because of your youth, but be an example (pattern) for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity, 1 Timothy 4:12.

The older I become, the more I hear and see people blame God for disasters, failures or setbacks that they face in life.  Meanwhile, these same individuals, especially politicians, grandstand by taking credit for any accomplishment, success or victory in their city, state or county.  Instead of spreading around the praise to all the parties involved, press conferences are used to deflect blame while hoarding the credit.  Natural leaders don’t have to pretend to be successful as their labor is on display, a visible sign of spiritual fruit.  Unfortunately, God has become the scapegoat when things go wrong, a proverbial punching bag at the center of many complaints.

Do not neglect the gift which is in you, [that special inward endowment] which was directly imparted to you [by the Holy Spirit] by prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands upon you [at your ordination]. 15 Practice and cultivate and meditate upon these duties; throw yourself wholly into them [as your ministry], so that your progress may be evident to everybody, 1 Timothy 4:14-15.

The passage above is a blue print for spiritual leadership. According to the apostle Paul, everyone is given a special endowment from God. This spiritual gift often lays dormant until the Holy Spirit enters your life through a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-10. In the first century, the laying on of hands was a common practice for healing and prayer. The apostle Paul urges Timothy to fan into flame the spiritual gift revealed to him in 2 Timothy 1:6. In other words, you can’t be the leader God wants you to become until your spiritual gift is discovered and implemented. While you can’t control what others do or say, may this blog inspire you to show others the way as action speak louder than words.

by Jay Mankus

Building From Scratch

If you have ever been forced to finish someone else’s project, what appears to be easy on the surface often contains several underlying issues. If this happens to be a physical building, there is always a risk that specific steps were missed or skipped along the way to save time. Meanwhile, the materials that you would have chosen can’t be added unless you want to start over from scratch. Another element is brought up by Jesus is Luke 14:28, before starting any project, you have to consider the costs, time and money. Don’t start something that you know you won’t be able to complete.

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation, Romans 15:20.

In the letter to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul reveals an interesting ministry strategy. Instead of building upon what others have taught, Paul felt compelled to go to areas and regions where the gospel had never been heard. After dealing with the Judaizers, a religious sect that added elements of Judaism to salvation, Paul realized that it was easier to start a church from scratch. Trying to undo bad habits, confusion and spiritual damage done by the Judaizers within the Galatian church reinforced Paul’s belief.

Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand,” Romans 15:21.

As most small businesses in America lay dormant, unable to open until social distancing policies have been eased, perhaps some will have to start over from scratch. If rent can’t be paid or expenses need to be cut, perhaps some will become more like Amazon, using the internet for sales. While this may not be possible, the creative have plenty of time now to develop, plan and strategize for the future. Although there will be many obstacles, visible and invisible, I pray for all the small business owners that God will give you a vision to implement once the Coronavirus pandemic subsides.

by Jay Mankus

God Knows the Right Time to Turn a Bad Situation Around

Every January, several churches across the United States participate in some sort of a fast to begin the new year. Some focus on a Daniel Fast where members of congregations eat fruits and vegetables, drink water and pray to draw near to God. Others observe a strict fast for a week, weeks or entire month, praying for direction, vision and confirming God’s will. In the Old Testament, queen Esther asks members of the Jewish community to fast and pray for her so that she will receive the right words to communicate to the king.

Then Mordecai told them to return this answer to Esther, Do not flatter yourself that you shall escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion? 15 Then Esther told them to give this answer to Mordecai, 16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me; and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I also and my maids will fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish, Esther 4:13-16.

Esther receives an answer to prayer, called to throw a banquet for the king and Haman. However, just as she is about to ask the king what she wants, Esther loses her train of thought. Perhaps, the Holy Spirit told her that the timing was not right. While stalling, waiting for a word from the Lord, Esther waits to reveal her concern one more day, deciding to throw another banquet tomorrow. While slightly puzzled, the king accepts Esther’s request. While unnamed people continued to fast and pray, the Lord used insomnia to keep the king up late that night. As a servant reads accounts to the king, he learns about an unrewarded act by Mordecai. This story turned a bad situation around at the right time.

On the third day [of the fast] Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the royal or inner court of the king’s palace opposite his [throne room]. The king was sitting on his throne, facing the main entrance of the palace. And when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight, and he held out to [her] the golden scepter that was in his hand. So Esther drew near and touched the tip of the scepter. Then the king said to her, What will you have, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of the kingdom. And Esther said, If it seems good to the king, let the king and Haman come this day to the dinner that I have prepared for the king, Esther 5:1-4.

For such a time is this is one of the most quoted passages from the Old Testament. Yet, if it wasn’t for this three day fast, where depressed souls poured out their hearts to God in prayer, this story of the Bible probably doesn’t happen. There is a crucial lesson to learn from this biblical account. If you ever find yourself stuck in a bad situation, fasting and prayer can turn your situation around. However, you need to call upon others, to form a concert of prayer with an expectation that God knows the right time to turn your situation around. What are you waiting for? The beginning of 2020 is as good of a time as any to fast and pray for God’s calling.

by Jay Mankus

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