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The Way Maker

The 1920’s has been described as the Jazz Age or roaring twenties. This decade of prosperity was marred by the Great Depression which began in August of 1929. Nineteen hundred years earlier, Jesus brought an era of spiritual enlightenment. This was accomplished by turning people’s attention away from following a set of rules, the Torah, to entering into a personal relationship with God. However, even his twelve disciples were often left in the dark, unclear of what Jesus meant by following the way.

And when (if) I go and make ready a place for you, I will come back again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way, John 14:3-4.

The disciple whom Jesus loved reflects upon these words after Jesus’ crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. John had plenty of time for reflection while living in exile on the Island of Patmos. Jesus spent the last three years of his life on earth pouring his heart and soul into twelve men. Little by little, Jesus showed this motley crew how to live, pray and serve mankind. Despite witnessing numerous miracles daily, a couple of disciples still doubted Jesus and couldn’t fully comprehend the way.

Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me. If you had known Me [had learned to recognize Me], you would also have known My Father. From now on, you know Him and have seen Him. Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father [cause us to see the Father—that is all we ask]; then we shall be satisfied, John 14:5-8.

Thomas and Philip are identified in the passage above, living by sight, not by faith. During a Sermon of the Mount of Olives, Jesus compares the way to two roads, a super highway and a narrow path. Prior to his arrest, Jesus often ruffled the feathers of religious leaders, referring to an inner temple, not the place of worship in Jerusalem. The Bible, especially the four gospels, provides clues for modern believers who seek a similar path, the Way. May this blog conceive a burning desire for you to follow the Way Maker, also a song by Mandisa.

by Jay Mankus

No Strings Attached

The expression “no strings attached” is directly tied to 18th century fabric merchants. Whenever a defect was discovered during a project, merchants would mark flaws in woven cloth by tying small strings to the bottom of the bolts at the locations where flaws were present. Instead of deceiving someone before a purchase was completed, buyers were made aware of any imperfections by these strings attached.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life, John 3:16.

Over the past 300 years, this symbolic act of honesty has disappeared. Instead, modern advertisements, commercials and infomercials contain a long list of fine print at the conclusion of their sales pitch. This content is included to cover and protect entrepreneurs from lawsuits and liability. Thus, strings attached have been replaced by label warnings in modern times. Making a decision to determine the genuine merchants from scammers gets harder and more difficult each year.

For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:17.

If you have ever been burned by a purchase, exposed to carcinogens or deceived by unread fine print, hearts have become skeptical. Past experiences have caused many to wonder, “okay, what’s the catch? What am I not seeing? Where are the strings attached?” This is where the Bible provides a breakthrough, a promise that sounds too good to be true. After embracing the gospel 35 years ago, the only thing that ruins this message are pastors who communicate an inaccurate description of what it takes to live in this world, but not of it. May this blog resonate with your soul.

by Jay Mankus

What You See Here Today

Alex Proyas directed the 2004 science fiction thriller I-Robot. This film was inspired by Isaac Asimov’s nine-story anthology I-Robot. Will Smith plays Detective Spooner, a bionic man assigned the apparent suicide of Dr. Alfred Lanning. James Conwell’s cameo’s of this character appears in the form of pre-recorded holograms. Set in the city of Chicago circa 2035, Spooner relies on these holograms during his investigation. The better his questions, the closer Will Smith gets to solving this case, a hidden revolution.

But the [Holy] Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach, Through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared (cauterized), 1 Timothy 4:1-2.

In the first century, the apostle Paul writes two letters to a teenager pastor. Based upon the passage above and below, Timothy began seeing things that were unreal. This young man was struggling to comprehend what was going on culturally. In response, Paul refers to a time in the future where Christians will turn away from their faith. A second letter eludes to how gossip, lies and rumors influence what people end up believing. Once preconceived notions are set, ears will ignore facts as minds will only accept and embrace what their own worldview believes.

For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, And will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions, 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

What you see here today in America is the fulfillment of the apostle Paul’s words. Whether you are a democrat, independent, libertarian or republican, the last three years have become a tug of war for political power. Instead of having the mainstream media and cable news networks cover these events in a bi-partisan way, most of the print and television media has taking one side. During the initial impeachment inquiry, news conferences took place after the democrats finished asking witnesses questions to announce victory and set the news cycle for the rest of the day. The only problem is the republicans had not yet asked a single question. This past week CNN only showed the democrats in Congress, switching to regular programming as soon as republicans offered their rebuttal. This happened all day long.

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. But you are not living the life of the flesh, you are living the life of the Spirit, if the [Holy] Spirit of God [really] dwells within you [directs and controls you]. But if anyone does not possess the [Holy] Spirit of Christ, he is none of His [he does not belong to Christ, is not truly a child of God], Romans 8:8-9.

Timothy wasn’t the only first century Christian to notice self-absorbed individuals. The apostle Paul blames this condition on a sinful mind, fueled by a carnal nature. This internal desire caters to earthly appetites and impulses which entice minds to taste what was once considered forbidden fruits. Whenever business people, CEO’s, directors or entrepreneurs act upon these inclinations, a specific worldview is promoted. When political talking points replace truth, the atmosphere is set for itching ears to hear and believe what you want. Unless this spiritual condition is addressed, a new revolution will commence as society drifts further and further away from a biblical worldview. What you see here in the form of current events should convict souls to come to your senses by drawing near to God.

by Jay Mankus

Receiving New Courage

Although the Wizard of Oz debuted in 1939, this became one of my favorite films as a child 40 years later. For some reason, reruns were broadcast twice a year, once before Easter and the other around Thanksgiving. The thought of a scarecrow searching for a brain, a tinman desperately wanting a heart and a cowardly lion hoping to find courage struck a cord with my soul. This film made me believe that it’s possible to receive new courage.

And the [Christian] brethren there, having had news of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and received new courage, Acts 28:15.

During a prolonged trip from Jerusalem to Rome, taking nearly 6 months, Paul seems to be wore down. Luke doesn’t expound upon why, but the passage above illuminates how the Christian community lifted his spirits. There are no details about who encouraged Paul or what was said, yet it’s clear that the words exchanged empowered Paul. After receiving strength to face the adversity of another trial, God prepared Paul for what lied ahead in Rome.

That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination]. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:6-7.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a teenage pastor called Timothy. Apparently, Paul received news that Timothy had become fearful, timid about speaking out against wrong behavior and teaching. Paul reiterates that this inclination is not from God. Rather, the Lord has given believers a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Therefore, if you are searching for courage today, look no further than the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

24

To the casual observer, this title suggests I am referring to the television series starring Kiefer Sutherland. While this counter-terrorist drama brought Jack Bauer to life, I mention this because 24 is the only television show that I have followed live since getting married in 1995. In the early years of my marriage, cable wasn’t a priority, just watching the four major networks and whatever else our antenna could pick up. While visiting my father in law in Chicago, 24 watch parties were a common occurrence, fixated for the entire hour once a week.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord, Proverbs 18:22.

However, the real meaning of today’s title is the number of years that I now have been married. For today, November 25th is my 24th wedding anniversary. While eating brunch with my groomsmen, I watched Ohio State, where I did part of my college internship, lose to Michigan in college football. As the 3 pm wedding time drew near, Chicago was seasonably warm, in the fifties. While Leanne did most of the planning, my input was the music, having two friends sing in our wedding and DJ from Indiana where I served as a youth pastor. My favorite part of this day was personally greeting each row, meeting and talking with family and friends. Yet, it’s hard to believe that 24 years have passed in a blinking of an eye.

House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord, Proverbs 19:14.

Looking forward, next year will mark a quarter of a century and the following year will mean that I have spent half of my life on earth with Leanne. What Moses says in Genesis about marriage is true, two people become one. While selfish desires still exist, part of marriage is coming together as a team to follow God’s will. Three children and one wedding later, there are still many events that await in the future. Yet, I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to meet Leanne Marie Wagner at a youth workers convention 26 years ago. I pray that as our home becomes an empty nest in three years that the Holy Spirit will guide us in the years ahead. As for today, I wish my bride Leanne a happy anniversary.

by Jay Mankus

Pillars of Prayer

When I visit a tourist destination, rarely do I say, “look at that pillar!” This tall vertical structure of stone, wood, or metal, used as a support for a building often goes unnoticed. Yet, without these crucial supports, buildings will collapse, not able to stand the test of time. In ancient Greece, pillars were center pieces of famous landmarks that still stand today.

And as He saw one single leafy fig tree above the roadside, He went to it but He found nothing but leaves on it [seeing that in the fig tree the fruit appears at the same time as the leaves]. And He said to it, Never again shall fruit grow on you! And the fig tree withered up at once, Matthew 21:19.

During an early morning walk, Jesus introduced his disciples to pillars of prayer. When an unproductive fig tree did not offer any fruit for their hungry stomachs, Jesus cursed it, immediately withering in front of them. This miracle inspired disciples to ascertain about the power of prayer. The first pillar is faith. This must be accompanied by an unwavering reliance on God. The second pillar is belief. This is accomplished by removing any doubt from your mind, trusting in the God who created the mountains.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled greatly and asked, How is it that the fig tree has withered away all at once? And Jesus answered them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith (a firm relying trust) and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea, it will be done. And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive, Matthew 21:20-22.

From personal experience, my mind tends to get in the way of prayers from being answered. It’s one thing to believe in the power of prayer, but Christians shouldn’t treat God like Santa Claus using prayer as a wish list. Instead, faith and belief must go hand and hand, yielding to God’s will. Yet, this shouldn’t hold you back, knocking on God’s door over and over again like the persistent widow. Prayer can be complicated, especially when prayers go unanswered. Nonetheless, when individuals don’t limit what heaven can do, you’ll be surprised just like the disciples above.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming a Dying Faith

Paul Simon’s 1977 song “Slip Slidin’ Away” addresses the depressing topic of death. One of the final stanza’s of this song accurately describes the journey people take through life. God only knows, God makes his plan
the informations unavailable to the mortal man. We work our jobs collect our pay, believe were gliding down the highway, when in fact were slip sliding away.
Maybe I’m alone, but I endure annual cycles where I feel like I’m dying inside as my faith flickers on life support.

So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead), James 2:17.

One of Jesus’ siblings provides insight into symptoms of a dying faith. An active faith is highlighted by acts of obedience and deeds inspired by the Holy Spirit. Just as the physically fit are disciplined, exercise regularly and work out each week, the out of shape do the exact opposite. James describes a dying faith as destitute, inoperative and spiritually dead, void of any signs of life. If you can relate that any of these troubling traits, it’s time to develop a plan to overcome a dying faith.

Was not our forefather Abraham [shown to be] justified (made acceptable to God) by [his] works when he brought to the altar as an offering his [own] son Isaac? You see that [his] faith was cooperating with his works, and [his] faith was completed and reached its supreme expression [when he implemented it] by [good] works, James 2:21-22.

Jesus’ brother points to Abraham who did not have access to the New Testament, but demonstrated faith by his willingness to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. Abraham had his own flaws, with a record of lying instead of trusting the Lord in Genesis. Whenever individuals go through trying times, God uses hardships, trials and tribulations to spark faith. Moses and Sarah waited for years to have a child and now God was going to take Isaac’s life? The moment anyone takes a step beyond what logic tells you, faith is ignited as daily acts compliment what you believe.

by Jay Mankus

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