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A Foretaste of the Blissful Things to Come

In the passage below, the apostle Paul points out that the Holy Spirit isn’t limited to Christians and Jews. Rather, God’s Spirit now extends to Gentiles who believe by entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The term first fruits likely refers to the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit poured out on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:1-4. Meanwhile, the foretaste of things to come is symbolic of the grace of God communicated to all in conversion.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption (our manifestation as God’s sons), Romans 8:23.

One of my former pastors explained grace as God’s riches at Christ’s expense. However, as Paul explains in the passage below, grace is invisible. Thus, as individuals begin to adjust their practices following their conversion from worldly pleasures toward eternal treasures, this transition is rarely smooth. Initial confessions of sin are refreshing, like receiving a shower of grace from heaven. Yet, when you begin to commit the same sinful act day after day, grace is cheapened and hope can be lost.

For in [this] hope we were saved. But hope [the object of] which is seen is not hope. For how can one hope for what he already sees? – Romans 8:24

In a letter to the church of Corinth, Paul pours out his heart during a moment of weakness, 2 Corinthians 12:7-12. Like anyone who is experiencing a spiritual free fall, the conviction of the Holy Spirit is overwhelming. Perhaps, Paul’s plea to God is merely asking the Lord, “why do I have to go through this?” Nonetheless, each Christian goes through a process known as sanctifying grace. This form of grace makes a soul acceptable and justified before God. Despite whatever hardships that you endure, may you recognize the foretaste of grace that will be completed before you meet your creator in heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Disposable

When my wife Leanne and I first got married, one of our common hobbies was re-finishing antique furniture. Whether it was a chair or table, the surface was scraped, sanded and wiped down before staining. While not every piece turned out how I wanted, this activity provided a time of interaction and satisfaction when finally completed. Instead of buying disposable pieces of furniture today, several items are antiques with a few over 100 years old.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; Psalm 34:18-19.

The term disposable refers to something intended to be used once, or until no longer useful, and then thrown away. At some point, American families have replaced family heirlooms with modern pieces of furniture. When you search for the identification tag to see where a piece was made, China is likely the origin. Although some brands may last longer than others, moving from one place to another often results in donating or disposing unwanted furniture. This mindset is not limited to possessions.

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart—Psalm 119:1-2

Many modern companies have developed a culture that everyone is replaceable. The years of company loyalty from my father’s generation is disappearing. In a world influenced by numbers, profit margin and shareholders, employees are annually discarded without a goodbye party or word of thanks. Meanwhile, names, relationships and social functions are merely a means to get ahead, a stepping stone for the next promotion. If this trend continues, the blessings of God will pass by, waiting for an honorable corporation to get behind and support. May this blog remind you that no one is worth disposing in God’s eyes.

by Jay Mankus

Translating God

There are many unsolved mysteries that have been recorded throughout the history of the earth. Some of these mysteries are detailed in the Bible. Whenever you read something that doesn’t make sense, you have to go back to see what the context is to help you understand what really happened. Unfortunately, there are chapters and verses in the Bible that require further research. This process is often referred to as translating God to extract why an account or story has been placed in the Bible; unveiling God’s nature.

And behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord to Bethel. Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. The man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you shall he offer the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the Lord has spoken: Behold, the altar shall be split and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. [Fulfilled in II Kings 23:15, 16.] When King Jeroboam heard the words the man of God cried against the altar in Bethel, he thrust out his hand, saying, Lay hold on him! And his hand which he put forth against him dried up, so that he could not draw it to him again, 1 Kings 13:1-4.

When I first heard a sermon on the passage above, I immediately thought of the song U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer. This hit song reached #1 on the Hip Hop and R&B Billboard charts in 1990. Normally, kings would call upon body guards or soldiers to remove an individual from their presence. However, the words of this unnamed prophet from Judah infuriated King Jeroboam so much that he tried to harm this man. In what can only described as a scene from a Science Fiction film, King Jeroboam’s hand immediately shriveled up.

And he went and found the corpse thrown in the road, and the donkey and the lion stood by the body; the lion had not eaten the corpse or torn the donkey. 29 The prophet took up the corpse of the man of God and laid it upon the donkey and brought it back, and the old prophet came into the city to mourn and to bury him. 30 And he laid the body in his own grave, and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother! 31 After he had buried him, he said to his sons, When I am dead, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones, 1 Kings 13:28-31.

The news of this strange encounter and subsequent healing spread throughout the land like a raging wildfire. A wayward prophet, paid off by King Jeroboam to only proclaim positive messages to enhance his reign felt compelled to reach out to this man of God. When his own sons couldn’t alter his course, this desperate man made up a story about an angelic counter to persuade him to stay an extra day. This decision proved to be fatal, killed by a mountain lion on his way back to Judah. Realizing it was his fault, the corrupt prophet has this man buried in his own personal tomb. Although this story has a sad ending, translating this chapter reveals the important of complete obedience to God. Anything less is unacceptable.

by Jay Mankus

Forfeiting Your Benefits

Forfeit refers to losing or being deprived of a certain right or privilege. As a former athlete and coach, I was given a victory or two due to another team not being able to field enough players for an official game. Yet, as an intramural coach in college, I was forced to forfeit a few games when a number of my teammates failed to show up on time. The Bible contains a couple of examples where Christians come close to forfeiting the benefits of heaven.

For it is impossible [to restore and bring again to repentance] those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become sharers of the Holy Spirit, And have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come, If they then deviate from the faith and turn away from their allegiance—[it is impossible] to bring them back to repentance, for (because, while, as long as) they nail upon the cross the Son of God afresh [as far as they are concerned] and are holding [Him] up to contempt and shame and public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

The passage above highlights an individual who has become lukewarm. When spiritual passion fades, subtle compromises tend to follow. Since a name is not provided, I’m assuming that more than one first century Christian began to back slide. The author suggests that this fall was partially due to a convoluted view of God’s grace. Instead of showing on contrite heart followed by acts of transformation, many began to abuse and cheapen God’s grace. This passage serves as the first warning to those living on both sides of the spiritual fence.

For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward]. 27 [There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God], Hebrews 10:26-27.

The passage above uses imagery from hell to scare wayward believers back on track. The author suggests that some Christians will just squeak into heaven, barely escaping the flames of hell. While many theologians hold the belief, once saved always saved, these two passages in Hebrews reveal different levels of faith. If one of Jesus’ own disciples, Judas Iscariot, ended up in hell, then don’t get too comfortable on earth. Perhaps, this explains Paul’s words to one of his favorite churches, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Philippians 2:12. When you develop a similar mindset, you won’t have to worry about forfeiting the benefits of heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Fitting a Square Peg into a Round Hole

The expression fitting a square peg into a round hole comes from the Apollo 13 Space Mission. The entire crew would have died from carbon dioxide poisoning if Mission Control didn’t come up with a way to fit the square lithium hydroxide canisters into the round openings of the environmental exhaust system. The movie highlights this race against time when a warning light reveals dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. A brainstorming session begins at Mission Control in Houston using plastic bags, cardboard, tape, and all materials on board of Apollo 13 to solve this dilemma.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6.

From my own personal experience, the older I get the less I see individuals open to thinking outside the box. Instead I hear the same old excuses, “this is the way we have always done it, we must follow the standard operational procedures or that’s just cutting corners.” Until an emergency arises, most people aren’t willing to deviate from the norm. However, there was a first century man who turned the Jewish culture upside down. Instead of focusing on a rigid set of rules, Jesus introduced a new way to live, expressing freedom like no one ever before or since.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me, John 14:6.

Sometime in the late 20’s AD, worshiping God in the temple at Jerusalem increased in importance. This would be like modern day Muslims traveling to Mecca for Ramadan. Just when this trend reached a buckle list status, Jesus spoke of a day when the temple would be torn in two. This teaching infuriated religious leaders, eventually resulting in Jesus’ death on a cross. Yet, Jesus placed a square peg into a round hole by revealing you don’t need to be in a building to worship God. Jesus took this concept one step further, explaining that human bodies are temples on loan from God, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. May this blog open your mind to see the vast miracles of the past and present as God continues to place square pegs into round holes daily.

by Jay Mankus

The Night I Met Satan in a Bowling Alley

By the beginning of my junior year in college, I felt called to pursue a career in youth ministry. To follow this calling, I began to volunteer in as many ways as possible to prepare myself for the future. I served as an assistant youth director for junior high students at my home church in Wilmington. Meanwhile, I sacrificed several weekends to help out with service projects, retreats and weekly youth related events.

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate, Proverbs 8:13.

When one of my mentors from high school asked me to help out at a lock in, an overnight action packed activity, I jumped at this opportunity. High school students were dropped off at a local bowling alley before being driven back to the church in vans afterward. Serving as an adult, I wanted to sit back and listen, observing this group of teenagers. It didn’t take long to recognize the boy that everyone referred to as Satan. Beside being obnoxious, this boy kept running up behind bowlers, hitting and pushing them just before releasing their ball. This behavior continued for an hour.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord,” Romans 12:19.

Instead of being confrontational and preachy, I sat down with this boy, trying to find out what made him tick. I guess you can say understanding Satan became my project for this night. As the evening wore on, I stuck to this boy like glue, hoping to limit his emotional outbursts. When my patience wore off, I began to confront and rebuke Satan, “why are you trying to live up to this nickname?” Feeling compelled to go deeper, the Holy Spirit filled me with probing questions to get to the heart of this boy’s issue.

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.

Normally, I don’t like to press people. Yet, after midnight, I spent an hour peeling away Satan’s onion, one layer at a time. My conversation revealed a broken home, a strict father and having no concept of love. Following a time of prayer in the chapel, the spiritual influences of Satan on this boy’s life was finally broken. This experience as a volunteer inspired me to devote 15 years of my life to youth ministry. As I found out as a college student, nothing is impossible with God as the boy that was called Satan gave his life to Jesus, Romans 10:9-11, before this lock in concluded.

by Jay Mankus

A Biblical Look into the Mind

In the hours immediately following a mass shooting, law enforcement searches homes, computer devices and social media to see if any clues can explain these tragic events. While some motives may include revenge or terrorism, most investigations turn up signs of mental health problems. When individuals stop taking their medication or reach a breaking point, one stressful situation can push souls over the edge, acting upon the whispers and voices of evil in their head.

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], Romans 8:6.

Apparently, the apostle Paul received a revelation about the human mind detailed in the passage above and below. The flesh has a mind of it’s own, placing individuals in direct conflict with their conscious. As people act upon, behave and respond to their own impulses, this seems natural and normal. Yet, Paul warns readers that daily decisions made in the flesh prevents the Holy Spirit from providing spiritual insight. If people aren’t careful, you might find yourself overwhelmed by all the miseries which arise from sin.

[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. 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, Romans 8:7-8.

Just as professional caterers attempt to persuade customers to return to their establishment, the Devil works behind the scenes each day to ensure that souls become addicted to various sins. While appetites vary from person to person, demons are assigned accordingly based upon your own weaknesses. These two verses in the Bible highlight the spiritual dimensions of America’s mental health crisis. Until individuals are made aware of this internal tug of war, peace of mind is unachievable. May this blog help those living in bondage, enslaved by addiction find freedom through a personal relationship with Christ, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

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