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Tag Archives: believe

Baby Jesus or the Man in a Red Suit?

According to Washington Irving, the concept of Santa Claus emerged in the United States beginning in 1773.  In Washington’s 1809 book the History of New York, Americans borrowed from Sinterklaas, a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat.  Commercial stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, followed by separate sections for holiday advertisements in 1840.  In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model.  The tradition of blending a real life Santa Claus to attract Christmas shoppers began in 1918.

Now they were also bringing their babies to Him, so that He would touch and bless them, and when the disciples noticed it, they began reprimanding them, Luke 18:15.

For the unchurched, Santa Claus has slowly replaced Jesus as the reason for this season.  As atheists, liberals and progressives continue to be offended by nativity scenes set up in public squares, law suits, public pressure and political correctness is eliminating the traces of this sacred holiday.  As a generation of babies, toddlers and young children have sat upon the laps of adults dressed up as Santa Claus, the concept of a baby Jesus is fading away.  Meanwhile, when asked by men in a red suit, “what do you want for Christmas,” Santa Claus has been elevated by many unknowing children to a god like status.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception [pseudo-intellectual babble], according to the tradition [and musings] of mere men, following the elementary principles of this world, rather than following [the truth—the teachings of] Christ, Colossians 2:8.

Apparently, fairly tales and wise old tales was not just a modern phenomena.  According to the apostle Paul, first century leaders who opposed Christianity began to develop plans to mislead followers of Christ.  These schemes appear to have been successful in deceiving some believers who did not possess a strong spiritual foundation.  The context of the passage above refers to becoming rooted in Christ, relying on the Bible and prayer to serve as a spiritual guide through life.  Anyone who does not practice similar spiritual disciplines are vulnerable to believing in lies, John 8:44.  This dilemma has led me to ponder, who will today’s children believe: baby Jesus or the man in a red suit?

by Jay Mankus

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Women and the Bible

Wherever you go and whatever you do, there will always be biases that exist in life.  These opinions cause a certain segment of society to feel or show inclination of prejudice for or against someone or something.  Unfortunately, these stereotypes often develop into beliefs resulting in inequality.  While growing up, Hollywood portrayed a skewed version of women and the Bible, emphasizing the submissive role of a wife in marriage, Ephesians 5.  Thus, many females rejected the Bible, Christianity and the desire to take faith seriously.

The Lord gives the command [to take Canaan]; The women who proclaim the good news are a great host (army); Psalm 68:11.

Like any conversation that you over hear or interrupt, if you walk into it at the wrong moment, you will miss a portion of the context.  Such is the case of the Old Testament passage above.  On the surface, this verse appears to suggest that God honors women who gossip, passing on what they were told.  When you dig deeper into Bible commentaries, you will find these women possessed two key qualities.  First, they believed victory was possible despite the impenetrable wall surrounding Jericho.  Second, these women encouraged others to believe by dancing and singing songs expecting victory to occur, void of any doubt.

“From my upbringing and the Bible I learned people should stand up for rights just as the children of Israel stood up to the Pharaoh,” Rosa Parks 1994.

During the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, one woman made a huge impact.  While entering a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to sit in the colored section of this bus.  Park’s decision inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  While Dr. Martin Luther King has received a majority of the credit for Civil Rights in America, Congress has referred to Rosa Parks as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”.  Based upon the quote above, Parks shares a common worldview with the women mentioned in Psalm 68.  These women applied the biblical principles they were taught as a children by taking a stand for that which was good, right and true.

by Jay Mankus

Within the Grasp of the Human Mind

Modern scientists tend to gravitate toward atheism, trusting only that which they can prove via science.  Others follow a similar path to C.S. Lewis, abandoning a childhood faith, encouraged by higher education professors who do not believe that God exists.  A more recent example is Lee Strobel, a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Daily Herald, eager to prove that Christianity is a fraud.  Strobel’s testimony can be found in the book and now movie The Case for Christ.  Regardless of what so called experts, the media and scholars proclaim, the answer to the meaning of life is within the grasp of the human mind.

“Those laws (of nature) are within the grasp of the human mind; God wanted us to recognize them by creating us after his own image so that we could share in his own thoughts,” Johannes Kepler in 1599.

During a trip to the new Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, I found this to be true.  On the second floor, Level 2, this exhibit is entitled the Impact of the Bible.  Like a living history book, there are hundreds of quotes from Colonists, Pilgrims, founding fathers, former presidents and past leaders of the United States.  Yet, other displays extend beyond our borders, documenting famous individuals in their fields throughout the world.  Two of the most intriguing comments come from a former astronomer and mathematician listed above and below.  Without mentioning scripture, each man appears to be referencing the invisible qualities of God, Romans 1:20.

“If the sacred scribes had had any intention of teaching people certain arrangements and motions of the heavenly bodies… then in my opinion they would not have spoken of these matters so sparingly, Galileo Galilei in a 1615 letter to the Grand Duchess of Christiana.

During his own letter to the church of Rome, the apostle Paul suggests that no should claim, “I didn’t know?”  Rather, the creation of the world reveals God’s invisible attributes.  A sunrise, the sun setting over an ocean and a rainbow following a storm are clear signs of a mastermind.  C.S. Lewis devotes the first section of Mere Christianity eluding to the Law of Human Nature.  While Lewis does highlight objections to this law, his words support what Galileo and Kepler have written.  If only human beings slowed down this Christmas season and stopped what they are doing for a moment, Psalm 46:10, the answers to the meaning of life are within the grasp of the human mind.  This revelation is just a prayer away.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Don’t Overlook God’s Providence

Immediately following the Exodus out of Egypt, the Israelites fled into the desert.  When Pharaoh changed his mind, Moses led God’s people to the banks of the Red Sea.  Against all odds, the Lord enabled Moses to part this body of water before collapsing upon and swallowing up the Egyptian army.  After witnessing this miracle, any event that follows would be obscure.  Thus, when God magically sent bread, manna from heaven, the Jews slowly began to overlook the obvious.

And the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the Israelites no longer had manna, but they ate some of the produce of the land of Canaan during that year, Joshua 5:12.

Like any human being, time has a way of changing your perspective.  Initial awe, excitement and joy can fade when everything that follows is small in comparison.  Perhaps, this explains Jesus comment to one if his disciples, “blessed are those do not see me yet believe.”  The testimony of followers of Jesus immediately following his resurrection should have been enough.  Yet, doubt prevented Thomas from believing, needing to see with his own eyes.  When you live with a miracle worker every day for three years, at some point you begin to over look the obvious, expecting greater things.

Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, do you now believe? Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, and favored by God] are they who did not see [Me] and yet believed [in Me],” John 20:29.

As holiday shoppers rush through life to get their Christmas preparations in order, it’s hard to keep track of daily mundane responsibilities.  Meanwhile, subtle miracles are glanced over as God provides this or that without any praise or thanks.  Unfortunately, I tend to be the type of person who allows themselves to be pushed to the limit, on the verge of mental exhaustion weekly.  Thus, instead of seeing subtle signs of God’s providence, I have ignored the obvious.  I guess I need to follow the advice of the Psalmist by being still before God, Psalm 46:10.  When you do, you will stop overlooking the obvious by observing the hand of God over your life.

by Jay Mankus

Get Up While There is Time to Act

The term believe appears 124 times in the King James Bible.  Meanwhile, the word faith appears 521 times in the Good News Bible.  In the context of the Word of God, believe is more than simply agreeing in your mind that something might be true.  Rather, believe involves trusting God so much that you are willing to dedicate your life to Jesus.  Meanwhile, faith refers to the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works,] James 2:14.

One of the barriers that deters believers in God from acting out their faith is mere intellectual assent.  In laymen terms, this is simply head knowledge about God, Jesus and the Bible.  Perhaps, this factor prevented the earthly brother of Jesus, James, from becoming a disciple prior the crucifixion.  After being an eyewitness of Jesus’ resurrection, conviction within James’ own heart instilled a desire to pursue good works as evidence of his new found faith.  James claims that to be a believer isn’t good enough, genuine faith inspires daily action.

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish [spiritually shallow] person, that faith without [good] works is useless? – James 2:20

While listening to a sermon last weekend, I became troubled by my own lack of action.  The passage above is blunt, faith without works is useless.  Another translation states “faith without works is dead.”  You may be able to fool some people, but God isn’t buying inactive Christians.  John the Revelator writes in the book of Revelation that God will spit out lukewarm believers.  In view of this warning, Get up now while there is time to act by making a difference in your spheres of influence.

by Jay Mankus

Bowing Down to Spiritual Bullies

Joel Kaplan has been a lifelong friend of Brett Kavanaugh.  This relationship compelled Kaplan to attend Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing as a sign of support.  This is what friends do, to be there in times of need for those they care about.  The only problem for Kaplan is that he is the Vice President of Facebook.  As employees of Facebook saw Joel on television sitting behind Kavanaugh, staff became outraged, demanding an explanation.  When Kaplan returned to work, he was pressured, bullied into apologizing for being a friend of Kavanaugh.

Then the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord and worshiped and served the Baals, Judges 2:11.

Whenever there is an absence of spiritual leadership, individuals begin to follow human nature.  After the death of Joshua, who was used to lead Israel into God’s promised land, there was a spiritual void.  When no one volunteered to stand up to show others the way, Jews began to do what was right in their own eyes.  Throughout the course of history, this cycle repeats itself until convicted hearts repent, confessing the error of their ways by turning back to follow God.  Based upon recent current events, progressive leaders are stepping up to redefine right from wrong.

And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They followed other gods from the gods of the peoples who were around them, and they bowed down to them, and offended and provoked the Lord to anger. 13 So they abandoned the Lord and served Baal [the pagan god of the Canaanites] and the Ashtaroth, Judges 2:12-13.

Apparently, there is some new Bible, source of truth, that I am not aware of.  This new standard evidently claims that president Trump is evil and anyone who follows or supports him is a bad person.  These beliefs are being enforced by protestors, hoping to scare others from publicly supporting likeminded candidates, leaders and politicians.  While president Trump has his flaws, allowing loose lips and undisciplined tweets to express unnecessary comments, no one should bow down to bullies.  As worldly influences continues to challenge what you think and believe, may the power of the Holy Spirit give you the courage to stand up and reinforce the values you hold dear.

by Jay Mankus

 

When You Stop Learning… You Quit Living

If you are born or raised in the United States, the first 18 years of your life is already planned.  The basic expectation is for every child to attend school from kindergarten all the way through high school.  Following graduation, individuals may choose college, attend a trade school or work locally until a better opportunity arises.  From a worldly standard, the more degrees that you earn often result in higher pay, improved chances for advancement and an elevated social status.  Anyone who rejects this path to success may be ridiculed, shunned or teased by the elite as some educators within higher education believe if you stop learning, you quit living.

And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.  For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay, Habakkuk 2:2-3.

In the days of the Old Testament, kings went to battle each spring to defend their territory from encroaching armies or expand their power over nearby lands.  According to 2 Samuel 11, David became bored by this annual tradition.  Perhaps, a few members of his posse convinced David to enjoy his power as king of Israel.  “You’re the king; send one of your commanders to oversee this military exercise.  Take some time off, relax and enjoy the wealth that you have accumulated.”  Since the Bible doesn’t detail any such conversation, maybe David felt like he arrived.  After serving as a lowly shepherd and musician, David was in the prime of his life, on the top of the world.  As the events of 2 Samuel 11 play itself out, complacency caused David to stop living according to God’s commands.  When you stop learning, you quit living as God desires.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge [of My law, where I reveal My will].  Because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge,  I will also reject you from being My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children, Hosea 4:6.

The Bible reveals the relationship between knowledge and vision.  Vision provides a game plan, enabling people to plot out their future through a series of goals.  As I reflect upon my own life, the times where I lost my way coincide with periods in my life void of goals and objectives.  Meanwhile, if accomplishments in life are etched upon a flow chart, my peaks and summits were achieved due to desire, focus and passion inspired by a dream or vision.  While some adults no longer have aspirations for pursuing another college degree, your current career is constantly changing as technology advances.  Thus, if you decide to stop learning, you will quickly fall behind as younger energetic co-workers will catch up and surpass your level of knowledge.  No matter how old you get, maintaining a teachable spirit is essential.  If you’re not careful, when you stop learning the Bible, you might quit the faith of your childhood.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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