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Unwrapping Christmas

It’s only fitting for a first century doctor to write about a foreign concept, the virgin birth. From a biological stand point, this doesn’t make any sense. Yet, Luke devotes an entire chapter, one of the longest in the New Testament, to lay out how this unique event took place. Luke sets the stage for a miracle to occur within a teenage girl named Mary.

Now in the sixth month [after that], the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 To a girl never having been married and a [v]virgin engaged to be married to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, Hail, O favored one [endued with grace]! The Lord is with you! Blessed (favored of God) are you before all other women! – Luke 1:26-28

Modern scientists refers to a virgin birth in terms of parthenogenesis. This process is defined as reproduction from an ovum without fertilization, especially as a normal process in some invertebrates and lower plants. Human beings first attempted to duplicate this process in the form of test tube babies in 1948. Nearly 2000 years after Jesus was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit, fertilization of an embryo was successful using genetics.

And Mary said to the angel, How can this be, since I have no [intimacy with any man as a] husband? 35 Then the angel said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you [like a shining cloud]; and so the holy (pure, sinless) Thing (Offspring) which shall be born of you will be called the Son of God, Luke 1:34-35.

When Mary receives word of her pregnancy, she is confused just like anyone else with a basic understanding of biology. Yet, an angel of the Lord unwraps the miracle of Christmas in the passage above. These events all needed to take place in order for Emmanuel to be born, God with us. If human beings can duplicate a virgin birth using modern science, why is it so far fetched to believe the creator of the universe did this first? As I unwrap Christmas in the weeks to come, may these blogs bring joy to your heart.

by Jay Mankus

The Second Pentecost

The Day of Pentecost is referenced in Acts 2:1-13.  This event serves two purposes.  First, to fulfill Jesus’ promise in John 14 to send a Holy Ghost as an advocate, counselor and helper of souls.  Second, this spiritual power is designed to empower disciples to fulfill the Great Commission, Matthew 28:16-20.  This initial day is celebrated every year in churches across the country and throughout the world.  Yet, until recently, I overlooked the second Pentecost.

And Cornelius told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, saying, ‘Send word to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; 14 he will bring a message to you by which you will be saved [and granted eternal life], you and all your household.’ 15 When I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as He did on us at the beginning [at Pentecost], Acts 11:13-15.

The second Pentecost is mentioned in Acts 10:34-48.  Prior to this day, Peter received the same vision four different times.  When this vision of unclean animals stood opposed to the Law of Moses, Peter rejected God’s initial message.  According to Acts 10:13-15, this scene is repeated three more times before Peter finally changes his mind.  When the Holy Spirit tells you to do something completely different from what you have been taught, changing your ways is hard.  Yet, this spiritual tug of war between Peter and God set the stage for a second Pentecost.

Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So, if God gave Gentiles the same gift [equally] as He gave us after we accepted and believed and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ [as Savior], who was I to interfere or stand in God’s way?” – Acts 11:16-17

Peter uses a rhetorical question in the passage above which convinced him step aside to allow the Holy Spirit to move and work.  Unfortunately, one of the reasons why the Holy Spirit is not as visible in the United States as third world nations is spiritual interference.  Modern apostles and disciples are standing in God’s way, blocking the Holy Spirit from being unleashed.  Traces of the sinful nature, stubborn hearts and rebellion from biblical practices are to blame.  Yet, is it possible for a third Pentecost, a modern movement of the Holy Spirit.  The only thing missing is concerts of prayer which fueled America’s last great awakening.  May biblical history serve as a blue print to inspire believers to follow in the footsteps of the church at Antioch, Acts 11:19-21.

by Jay Mankus

The Role of Resolve in Prayer

According to Luke, one of the sons of Zebedee becomes the first of Jesus’ disciples to die a martyr’s death.  Apparently, the spread of Christianity threatened Agrippa I, the new king of the Jews.  It’s unclear why James was targeted, but he was executed in public to send a message.  When this act received praise from Jewish leaders, Agrippa I made plans to do the same thing with Peter.  As news of Peter’s arrest and rumors of another execution reached the church, fear drew believers to fall to their knees to pray.

Now at that time Herod [Agrippa I] the king [of the Jews] arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to harm them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword; Acts 12:1-2.

Based upon the passage below, the prayers lifted up to God were fervent and persistent.  Following the Passover, Peter was scheduled to be executed in a similar manner as James.  As this day drew near, prayers of the saints intensified.  Individuals were begging and pleading with God to deal with, fix and resolve this emergency immediately.  Based upon Acts 12:8-10, the Lord sent an angel to save Peter’s life, answering their prayers instantaneously.

When he had seized Peter, he put him in prison, turning him over to four squads of soldiers of four each to guard him [in rotation throughout the night], planning after the Passover to bring him out before the people [for execution]. So Peter was kept in prison, but fervent and persistent prayer for him was being made to God by the church, Acts 12:4-5.

During Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the role of resolve in prayer is mentioned, Matthew 7:7-12.  Step one is obvious, ask God for any requests on your heart or that come to mind.  Step two begins when prayers aren’t answered, seek God to find out why.  Finally, be fervent and persistent by keep knocking on God’s door.  Don’t give up on prayer; resolved to keep praying until the Lord opens a door to reveal answers for your prayers.  This is the role of resolve in prayer.  May your prayer life begin to resemble first century Christians.

by Jay Mankus

Strange but True

Talking to yourself may not be natural, but people do think out loud.  When you hear voices or whispers, you may be imagining something that is not there.  However, when God speaks to certain individuals using a still small voice, this may sound strange but it is true.  According to Genesis 2:5-6, God’s initial creation did not include rain as a high water table allowed springs to water the earth.  Thus, when God addressed Noah about building an ark, no one had ever seen rain before.  Building a giant boat is one thing, but doing so without understanding the concept of a flood required a rock solid faith.

God said to Noah, “I intend to make an end of all that lives, for through men the land is filled with violence; and behold, I am about to destroy them together with the land. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make in it rooms (stalls, pens, coops, nests, cages, compartments) and coat it inside and out with pitch (bitumen), Genesis 6:13-14.

After the scattering of nations at Babel, God sought out a man named Abram.  The Lord promised Abram a great nation.  However, there was one major problem, Abram’s wife Sarai was barren, nearing the age where having a child is unlikely.  Initially, Abram took matters in his own hands, having Ishmael with a maid servant named Hagar.  As Sarai’s biological clock was nearing an end, the Lord performed a miracle as Isaac was born.  However, Genesis 21 unveils God’s request for Abraham to sacrifice his son.  As this drama unfolds, Abraham reaches a point where the only logical explanation for this offering is that God will resurrection his son.

Now [in Haran] the Lord had said to Abram, “Go away from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; 2  and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you [abundantly], and make your name great (exalted, distinguished); and you shall be a blessing [a source of great good to others]; Genesis 12:1-2.

These are just two examples from history that illustrate God’s ability to communicate with human beings.  Sometimes God uses a burning bush, a dream or sends an angel to supply his next set of directions.  Sometimes these words don’t make sense, but that is where faith comes into play.  Testimonies allow present Christians to tell their story of how God is working in their lives.  While these stories may appear strange as information is revealed, fellow believers will be encouraged by the wonderful ways in which God moves and works.

by Jay Mankus

Joplin’s Angels

In May of 2011, one of the most devastating EF5 tornadoes struck Joplin, Missouri, killing 161 people.  Images of this destruction shocked residents, leaving most unable to distinguish their homes, neighborhoods and town.  Like any tragedy, media outlets flocked to Joplin, trying to portray human interest stories of survival.  Unfortunately, the most intriguing account never received much attention until now.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways, Psalm 91:11.

Perhaps, not sure how to handle several strange encounters with butterfly people, the National Paranormal Association published this phenomena in a January 16th, 2012 article.  Intrigued, a recent episode of Monsters and Mysteries in America dedicated a portion of their show to illustrate how these entities shielded woman and children from flying projectiles.  If these angels didn’t intervene on behalf of Joplin, the death toll would have likely reached into the thousands.

My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm, Daniel 6:22.

Whenever news doesn’t fall into alignment with a secular worldview, most stories are buried, nixed or suppressed.  In the case of Joplin, maybe writers didn’t want to emphasize that angels saved some while 161 perished.  Whatever the reason for this omission, its clear that angels are not just an old wise tale.  Rather, guardian angels exist in many shapes and forms.  Although butterfly shaped creatures sound unreasonable, when you connect the dots, its highly probable that eye witnesses of these encounters saw Joplin’s angels.

by Jay Mankus

 

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