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Floundering in the Faith

When a hooked fish is pulled out of the water, self defense mechanisms kick in.  This results in flapping, pulling and tugging trying to escape.  Sometimes Christian face similar uncomfortable environments.  Certain situations force individuals to either sink or swim with many end up floundering in their faith.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him, Hebrews 11:6.

Comfort zones are nice to have growing up, but eventually you need to leave this place of safety to experience the real world.  Attitudes might deter you, behaviors offend you and language may shock you.  Nonetheless, faith is a series of trials and errors, taking risks, failing and getting back up.  Sitting at home, afraid to fail is like a having a flawed faith.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.

When you get over the hump, people can begin to take ownership of their faith.  Growing pains develops perseverance, providing opportunities to trust in the Lord and lean not on your understanding.  Unfortunately, its easy to revert back to the past, clinging to former desires of your heart.  This crisis of faith is what Jesus’ brother refers to in the passage above.  If you hold on just long enough, God blesses those who stand the test of time by holding fast to faith in Christ.  Stop floundering and start swimming in the Spirit today!

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Stages of Worship

As a former runner, I see a comparable relationship between running and worship.  The first time you do each, its not always the most pleasant experience.  While those in advanced stages have a different perspective, the novice may quit early on, claiming what’s the point.  Trying to excel at each requires knowledge, preparation and training.  During a church service last weekend, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to 3 stages of worship.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship, Romans 12:1.

Stage 1: Good

The apostle Paul encourages those who embrace the Christian faith to respond to God’s mercy.  When your sins were pardoned, this should elicit a spirit of thankfulness within forgiven souls.  As right and wrong acts are differentiated by the Bible, this exposure to truth hopefully fuels a fire within hearts to pursue holiness.  This environment sets the scene to ignite and stoke a desire to worship.  This is a good first step.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will, Romans 12:2.

Stage 2: Pleasing

If running or worship does not bring pleasure or a sense of progress, most will abandon the journey, filling their time with other worth while pursuits.  Thus, Paul suggests the pattern of the world will become a distraction for many.  Subsequently, finding pleasure in running or worship begins with a renewing of your mind.  Just as Jesus went into the wilderness, fasting and praying before beginning his earthly ministry, worship is taken to the next level by believing and claiming God’s promises for your life.  As the worries of life fade, your worship will please God as you bow down in holy reverence to your creator above.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me, 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Stage 3: Perfect

Human nature tends to lead people to rely on their own strength and abilities.  Yet, perfection is not attainable in flesh alone.  Rather, individuals need to come to a spiritual state where they recognize any weaknesses and lean on Christ’s power.  The apostle Paul was forced into this predicament through an unknown physical ailment.  While the Bible is not specific on his condition, God’s power is made perfect through weakness.  Therefore, if you are struggling to concentrate as you run or worship, don’t run this race alone.  Rather, cry out to the Lord for help and perhaps one day you will reach new levels as you worship God.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Fear Tactics

Angst, dread and panic are words synonomous with fear.  When some individuals are about to lose control or power, fear tactics are employed to manipulated others.  This process can get ugly, exposing evil intentions from within.  Unfortunately, this scene is replayed daily across the country resulting in concern, distress and horror.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full, John 10:10.

When teaching the first century about the Devil, Jesus refers to this fallen angel as a thief.  This spiritual bully has a playbook of fear tactics attempting steal, kill and destroy souls.  Unfortunately, this attack is invisible, enticing, luring and tempting unknowing accomplishes to do his own dirty work.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies, John 8:44.

Sometimes I read too much into someone’s actions.  Yet, I have experienced moments where Satan used a stranger to verbally assault me.  This happened a few times when I was in youth ministry and teaching.  My initial thought was “what the hell is going on?”  Yet, after a few days of reflecting and seeking discernment from others, I realized these events were merely fear tactics inspired by demonic powers seeking to steal my joy in life.  When the father of lies comes knocking at your door, guard yourself with a hedge of protection through prayer.

by Jay Mankus

 

Opening Your Eyes to the Suffering of Friends

When I was younger, I was naive.  This immaturity lead me to become blind, oblivious to the needs of my friends.  Carl who eventually became my best friend in high school often punched me in the shoulder, shouting out “punch buggy” yellow or blue.  Behind this aggression was a boy crying out for help as he silently watched cancer take his mother’s life.  I could have been there for him, providing a shoulder to lean on.  Yet, I was consumed by my own life.

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him, Job 2:11.

News of the tragedy that struck Job spread to his friends and neighbors.  Since no funerals are referenced, these three men dropped what they were doing to comfort Job.  However, as they approached, the sight of Job’s condition was overwhelming.  This brought out raw emotions, crying with their friend.  Based upon the words used by Job, none of these friends could come to terms with what happened, remaining silent for a week.  Sometimes a hug is more powerful than words.

When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was, Job 2:12-13.

In this day and age, its easy to connect or reach out to friends using social media.  Since my emergency eye surgery last November, I posted on Facebook a need for prayers a couple of times.  I’ve been amazed and touched by the outpouring of support that I have received.  In the moments immediately following requests for prayers, I have felt the healing power of your prayers.  This experience has inspired me to open my eyes to the suffering of friends.  May this blog inspire you to reach a helping hand like the friends of Job in chapter 2.

by Jay Mankus

Resisting Evil Desires From Within

Meteorologists use barometers to measure atmospheric pressure.  Since pressure can be used to predict short term changes in the weather, barometers reveal a glimpse of future events.  While weather forecasts remain inconsistent despite high tech equipment, those with the gift of discernment tend to have a higher success rate.  If this is true, perhaps there is a barometer of the soul.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, Ephesians 6:12.

During an extended stay in Ephesus, an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, the apostle Paul makes an astute observation.  When defeat, failure and trials occur, many people focus on external factors as the cause.  Paul disagrees claiming there are invisible forces to blame, dark, demonic and supernatural forces attempting to steal your joy in life.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul, 1 Peter 2:11.

Peter provides another perspective, likely reflecting upon his public betrayal of Jesus in the verse above.  Certain desires can be overwhelming, wearing you down over time.  Before you know it, temptation lures individuals to act in direct contrast with their morals causing a war against your soul.  Warning others not to fall into this trap, a barometer of the soul is essential to escape evil desires from within.

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it,” Genesis 4:7.

The mind is like a human computer, created long before Serry and Elexia.  Prior to killing his brother, God was able to read Cain’s thoughts.  Troubled by what he is thinking, the Lord lays out Cain’s dilemma, sin is crouching at your door.  Likewise, today individuals must rule over evil thoughts with biblical truths, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  Success is achieved through taking your thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ.  Any other means will ultimately lead to indulgence.  In view of this, meditate on God’s Word daily to purge yourself from evil desires from within.

by Jay Mankus

 

I’m All Boycotted Out

I read a Facebook post last week blasting Vice-President Mike Pence’s tie breaking vote to nominate Betsy Devos as the next Secretary of Education.  Moments later a heard a Fox News host discuss a movement to boycott Nordstrom’s after they dropped the Ivanka Trump’s clothing line.  While listening to Talk Radio on my way to lunch, I heard soundbites of Democratic plans to continue to fight, obstruct and take president Donald Trump to court.  After less than a month of America’s 45th president, I’m all boycotted out.

For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed, Romans 13:6-7.

I’ve heard several thousand sermons over the years, but one applies to this topic.  Early on in the 1990’s, Kmart did something to outrage Christians.  I don’t recall what it was, yet there were several members of Cornerstone Church pressuring Pastor Paul to get behind a movement to boycott Kmart.  During a private conversation, Paul had a Solomon like moment, making a brilliant point.  “How can I lead this congregation and look a mother in the eyes who just happens to work at Kmart?  It’s not her fault.  Sometimes you have to stay out of the fray and let the situation please itself out.”

Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” Matthew 22:17-21.

Jesus had a similar discussion when religious leaders accused him of being against taxes.  Using this topic as a teachable moment, Jesus makes an important distinction between God and the government.  This simplistic reply silences Jesus’ political critics.  Perhaps, the leaders of this country need to apply this same principle today.  Sure, disagreements lead to gridlock.  Nonetheless, give to God what is God’s and give to the government what is due.  While boycotts might make some people feel good, the love of Christ calls individuals to turn the other cheek.  May the Holy Spirit soften hardened hearts and restore a sense of unity.

by Jay Mankus

 

Facing an Unforgiving Heart

For 364 days a year, hatred often controls the daily news cycle.  This is displayed through crimes against humanity, terrorist attacks and violent protests.  Yet, the calendar suggests that on February 14th love should replace hate.  Even if you have someone special to be your valentine, many individuals are confronted by a person or people with an unforgiving heart.

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins, Matthew 16:15.

If you are honest with yourself, everyone has someone who rubs you the wrong way.  This could be a co-worker, neighbor or relative.  Coping with, forgiving and loving this individual requires an extra portion of grace.  Certain actions, gestures and words may lead you to flip out, building a wall of resentment that can result in harboring a spirit of unforgiveness within your heart.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you, Colossians 3:13.

The apostle Paul makes a great recommendation for those of you facing an unforgiving heart.  Despite how difficult it may be, the key to spreading love throughout the year involves bearing with one another.  While you may get impatient, let go of any grievance that you have against others.  In doing this, you will love others as Christ loved you.

by Jay Mankus