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Irrevocable

Irrevocable is defined as not able to be changed, reversed, or recovered. The context of this term involves absolute, final and unalterable results. Once a decision is made by God, whether it’s a calling, eternal destiny or spiritual gift, this is permanent. The apostle Paul’s usage of irrevocable in the passage below supports the theological belief, “once saved always saved.”

For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call,] Romans 11:29.

Paul is eluding to the sovereign will of God in this portion of his letter to the church at Rome. Feeling compelled to re-enforce the covenant of grace, Paul assures first century followers of Christ that God’s promises never change. Whatever God purposes is never reversed or revoked. Thus, this verse serves as a form of assurance to encourage anyone filled with concern, doubts or uncertainty.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved at heart. So the Lord said, I will destroy, blot out, and wipe away mankind, whom I have created from the face of the ground—not only man, [but] the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air—for it grieves Me and makes Me regretful that I have made them. But Noah found grace (favor) in the eyes of the Lord, Genesis 6:5-8.

The Old Testament provides a complete picture of God’s true character. Prior to the great flood in Genesis, wickedness spread throughout the earth. Just like during the era of Judges, individuals began to do what was right in their own eyes. As God watched from heaven, His heart was broken. Instead of destroying every human being, Noah found favor in God’s eyes. When the Lord sought to destroy the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah, the prayers of Abraham in Genesis 18 persuaded God to save the righteous. When everything is put together, you may not always understand the mind of God, but his call and gifts are irrevocable.

by Jay Mankus

Grace Holds Me Now

The byproduct of original sin, Adam and Eve’s decision to eat forbidden fruit, led to separation from God. When the only rule, do not eat of the tree of knowledge, in the Garden of Eden was broken, earth’s first family was banished, expelled from this tropical paradise. Subsequently, a works oriented system using a series of sacrifices was set up to atone for current and past sins. The Old Testament book of Leviticus introduces these offerings with detailed instructions on when and how this should be done.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man [who places his faith in wealth and status] to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were completely astonished and bewildered, saying, “Then who can be saved [from the wrath of God]?” – Matthew 19:24-25

During the first century, a rich young ruler lived his life in according to the 10 commandments, Exodus 20:1-17. Despite his zealous application of these principles, something in this man’s heart didn’t seem right. Thus, this ruler seeks out godly counsel from Jesus, hoping to find comfort that he was on the right track. After a series of questions, Jesus asks this wealthy man to go and sell all of his possessions, then give the proceeds to the poor. While the rich young ruler lived a moral life, at some point he began to trust his own wealth instead of God. This request was just too hard to do, walking away from Jesus in tears.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

Jesus hints at the concept of grace in the passage above. Grace refers to God’s riches at Christ’s expense. This unmerited favor of God toward man is made possible through Jesus’ life as the perfect lamb of God. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection made what was formerly impossible possible. Thus, individuals no longer need to live by the standards of the Old Testament. Rather, anyone who publicly believes in their heart and professes with their mouth that Jesus is Lord will be saved, Romans 10:9-10. Therefore, you don’t have to walk away disappointed like the rich young ruler. Faith in Jesus provides assurance that grace holds you now.

by Jay Mankus

The Shell Game

The Shell Game is symbolic of three stages in life: early childhood development, reaching your prime and going through a mid-life crisis.  As a child, a lack of confidence, fear and insecurities cause many young people to hide who they really are.  When afraid, frightened or threatened, most turtles seek shelter under their shell, disappearing and hiding underneath until its safe to come out.  Likewise, human beings possess a similar defense mechanism, withdrawing from society until assurance, confidence and hope is restored.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

In the early years, stuttering prevented me from ever expressing myself clearly as a child.  Being made fun of, mocked and teased was too much to endure.  These attacks against what I could not control led me to live a private life until my teenage years, participating in solitary play, imagining what it would be like for me to talk without stuttering.  After my dad was transferred from New Jersey to Delaware, a neighborhood of kids helped me come out of my proverbial shell.  Friends like Jeanette, Steven and Richie overlooked my stuttering, seeing a potential that no one else had prior.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

By the beginning of my senior year of high school, my faith in Christ, amazing friends and an unquenchable fire for life transformed me.  This one year served as a catalyst to do things I never imagined possible.  Despite periods of stammering, God inspired me to become a youth pastor, high school teacher and invest the prime of my life coaching, mentoring and sharing my faith with others.  During this fifteen year period, I was filled with unswerving faith that allowed me to experience the abundant life, witness miracles and experience a spiritual awakening within Columbus, Indiana.  Unfortunately, at some point in the last fifteen years, I have reverted back to playing the shell game, trying to hide the person that I have become.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed, 1 Peter 4:12-13.

At some point in life, whether you call it a mid-life crisis or the painful reality that you’re not the same person that you use to be, this fact is hard to swallow.  Recently, I have tried to go back in time, to see where I went wrong.  When you don’t have the energy, drive or passion anymore, its hard to make progress or fix the flaws that are obviously present in my life.  What makes matters worse is seeing a shell of the person that you used to be and feel powerless to alter, change or repair the damage done.  If you reach this stage in life like me, Jesus is the only one who can mend your pain.  While restoration is a long process with bumps along the way, Jesus is like Med-Express, available at any time you need medical and spiritual attention.  As this endless shell games presses on, reach out to Jesus, who will hold your hand through the storms of life.  May this blog comfort your soul as you endure the good, the bad and the ugly in the shell game called life.

by Jay Mankus

Not Just a Guess

I have grown to appreciate the Amplified Bible this year.  While this translation of Scripture can be confusing upon first sight, this version gives you a full perspective of the context in which each book and verse was written.  Although you may choose to use your favorite commentary while studying the Bible, I don’t have to guess when I read the Amplified Bible.  What makes this version unique is that all the possibly translations from Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew into English are provided in italics.

Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses], Hebrews 11:1.

Given the title of the Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11 records the triumphs of faith throughout the history of the Bible.  This chapter details godly men and women who walked by faith, not by sight.  These individuals did not guess.  Rather, each was filled with an assurance not of this world.  Like a deed to a title, hope was divinely guaranteed by promises made throughout the Old Testament.  This conviction directed, guided and steered these souls to spiritual heights that the world still struggles to comprehend.

By faith [that is, with an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God] we understand that the worlds (universe, ages) were framed and created [formed, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose] by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible, Hebrews 11:3.

The greatest feature of any faith is the enduring confidence that one possesses.  While doubts will appear from time to time, those who have decided to follow Jesus are often filled with divine power.  This inherent trust arrives during periods of hardship and trials, sending hope on dark days.  According to the apostle Paul, faith begins when people hear or read the Bible, Romans 10:17.  If you’re tired of going through life guessing, may the Holy Spirit nudge you to take a leap of faith.  God willing, you will soon possess the confidence mentioned in 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Whose Hands Are You Holding?

Assurance, confidence, dependence and expectation are words associated with trust.  Human beings have a tendency to become co-dependent, relying on someone or something.  In the Peanuts Cartoon, Charles Schultz developed a character, Linus, who couldn’t function without his security blanket.  Meanwhile, some individuals can be insecure, clinging to family, friends or strangers when loneliness sets in.  Depending upon the circumstance, whose hands you hold during times of trials reflect whom you ultimately trust.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding, Proverbs 3:5.

One day, a father took his son aside to discuss an important life lesson.  This conversation is condensed in the passage above.  Solomon who received wisdom from the Lord passed his insight down to one of his many sons.  This command goes against mainstream beliefs, urging readers to hold God’s hand when you don’t understand why something is happening.  Like faith in the dark, when life takes unexpected twists and turns, trust in the Lord with all your heart.  This action suggests that you are all in, clinging to God’s hand.

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! – Psalm 40:4

Solomon’s father, David, provides his own perspective of trust in the passage above.  From a man who went from a lowly shepherd to king of Israel, David recognizes God’s role in his ascension to the throne.  David views his status as a blessing from trusting the Lord as a child.  Unfortunately, some people handle success poorly, boasting and taking all the credit themselves.  If you want to guard against arrogance and pride, make sure that you are holding God’s hand, looking up instead of trusting in your own understanding.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Let Time Shrink Your Faith

The other day I went shopping when I encountered a child throwing a temper tantrum.  As soon as this boy realized he wasn’t getting to get what he wanted, he lost it.  Although this event reminded me how thankful that I am for having grown children, one thought came to my mind.  When time ceases to provide any glimpses of hope, progress or results, faith can shrink.

And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised, Hebrews 6:15.

The author of Hebrews dedicates an entire chapter known as the Hall of Faith.  One of the initial recipients is Abraham who waited decades until God gave a promised son through his wife Sarah.  Beneath the surface and under their breathe, I’m sure there were moments of doubt, especially for a woman reaching 100.  Yet, this example reveals a painful truth about life, God doesn’t always answer prayers according to your schedule.  Rather, the Lord uses time, trials and uncertainty to fireproof your faith.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see, Hebrews 11:1.

One of the most difficult stretches I’ve had to endure was in 2012 and 2013, struggling to find a permanent job after teaching high school for ten years.  There were days, weeks and months that I lost hope, not believing that God would change my hapless situation.  I wish I was stronger, but my faith shrunk as I lost my place in this world.  While I have ended up on my feet today, I am still searching for that perfect fit where my gifts match God’s will.  If Abraham had to wait decades, I guess I can hold on a little longer, praying that one day my dreams will come true.

by Jay Mankus

 

On Again Off Again

The origin of getting cold feet has three different links to history.  The first derives from an Italian play written in 1605 entitled Volpone.  The context of Ben Johnson’s words, “to have cold on one’s feet,” refers to having no money.  Two centuries later, a German novel uses a similar expression when speaking of gamblers who have cold feet as their money runs out.  Finally, Stephen Crane’s piece, Maggie: A Child on the Streets from 1894 has a modern understanding as cold feet is in reference to making tough decisions.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.- Hebrews 11:1

Today, On Again Off Again could be the title of the latest Reality TV Show as people change their minds on whether or not to get married.  However, this phrase is used by sports fans who jump on and off their favorite team’s bandwagon.  Whenever expectations of a relationship or viewing interest let you down, faith to continue your vested interest wanes.  Thus, the words On Again Off Again become a self-fulfilled prophecy.

That your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:5

Unfortunately, these words often describe a Christian’s volatile relationship with God.  As long as things go well, their commitment remains true.  Meanwhile, the littlest sign of turmoil leads many to get cold feet wondering, “is this Christian thing really worth it?”  Anyone who has ever felt periods of distance from God might consider taking a break, putting the Lord on hold until you need Him again.  Regardless of where you may be, sincere faith requires trust.  Therefore, don’t live life like a roller coaster full of emotions.  Rather, remain steadfast on the narrow road which leads to heaven.

by Jay Mankus

 

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