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Forming a Complete Picture of God

It’s rare that you see kindness and severity in the same sentence. These opposing terms highlight elements of God’s nature. According to the apostle Paul, you should take note and appreciate both aspects of God’s personality. While God can demonstrate affection, concern and warmth, this is only one side of the picture. When commands, decrees and expectations aren’t met, God’s wrath is displayed through curses, loss and rebukes.

Then note and appreciate the gracious kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s gracious kindness to you—provided you continue in His grace and abide in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off (pruned away), Romans 11:22.

In the second half of the passage above, the apostle Paul adds a spiritual disclaimer. God’s grace and kindness is dependent upon how you exercise your free will. Those who abide in the fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, enjoy and partake in fellowship with God. However, if you indulge your sinful nature, the severity of God can be unleashed upon disobedient souls. When you consider the pros and cons, a complete picture of God comes into view.

[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents]. But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations], 1 John 1:6-7.

The disciple whom Jesus loved uses an analogy to paint his own picture of God’s true nature. Comparing a relationship with God to taking a walk, you have one of two options. According to John, each choice either represents light or darkness. Decisions inspired by the Holy Spirit result in blessings. On the other hand, poor choices influenced by your sinful nature bring spiritual darkness. The more you abide in Jesus, the clearer human minds become, able to envision a complete picture of God.

by Jay Mankus

Coronavirus Choices

Prior to March 12th, 2020, most Americans were carrying on with their normal routines. Yet, when breaking news reported Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz had contracted the Coronavirus, sports lovers were in for a rude awakening. The National Basketball Association immediately suspended their season. This initial decision inspired the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer to suspend their seasons as well. By the end of this week, more dominoes fell as the NCAA’s March Madness Basketball Tournament, the Player’s Championship and two Nascar Races were cancelled.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise, Jeremiah 17:14.

With most sporting events put on hold for a minimum of 2 weeks, possibly a month, the Coronavirus has altered the lives of sports enthusiasts. Instead of lounging around at home to watch a game, going to a sports bar with friends to enjoy college basketball or catching highlights on ESPN, new habits will have to be formed. Whether you are stuck at home watching your children, under a self imposed quarantine or forced to find something else to do when your initial plans were cancelled, perhaps the Coronavirus pandemic is a blessing in disguise.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

After binge watching a series on Amazon Prime with my wife early this weekend, I felt compelled to go outside and do something. Bored out of my mind, I took my kids golfing Saturday morning. Despite a beautiful day, the COVID-19 scare kept most golfers off this course, Their loss was my gain, playing 18 holes in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes. Although Americans have been infected, placed under quarantine or lost their lives, the Coronavirus is changing the way people live their lives. What I call Coronavirus Choices is forcing individuals to re-think their diet, sleep habits and sanitary rituals. While only God knows how long this pandemic will last, may you use your new free time at home to make better choices daily.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Help or Satan’s Hurt

During a trip to Gibeon, King Solomon experienced a special dream one night. According to 1 Kings 3, the Lord appeared to Solomon in this dream, asking him to make a decision between wealth or wisdom. After thoroughly examining his options, Solomon requested a discerning heart and understanding mind. This decision pleased the Lord resulting in a life of blessings, riches and wealth like no other ruler in the Bible.

Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of David my father, and I am but a lad [in wisdom and experience]; I know not how to go out (begin) or come in (finish). Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people who cannot be counted for multitude. So give Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge and rule this Your great people? – 1 King 3:7-9

In the first century, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a teenage pastor named Timothy. Apparently, Timothy was uncertain and unsure of what position to take on wealth. The passage above provides biblical insight and perspective. While blessings are a sign of God’s favor, Satan uses riches as a vessel for temptation. Thus, when money becomes your god, God’s initial help can quickly turn into Satan’s hurts.

But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction and miserable perishing. 10 For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many acute [mental] pangs, 1 Timothy 6:9-10.

You don’t have to look any further than the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 to understand this concept. A younger son became consumed by his share of an inheritance. Before receiving this money, his mind became filled with earthly pleasures. Like an addict who can’t control himself, the prodigal son quickly became Exhibit A for Satan’s hurt. Broke, desperate and homeless, the only way to overcome Satan’s hurt is coming to your senses. May this story of redemption inspire you to embrace God’s help so Satan’s hurt becomes a thing of the past.

by Jay Mankus

Living in a Land of Lions

When you read the Old Testament, certain sections are clear and concise. God’s nature is often revealed by using specific commands to illustrate the importance of obedience. Those who follow the Lord are blessed and those who fail to follow God’s directions are cursed. There is no halfway, it’s either all or nothing.

Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; the words which he had spoken to the king they told also to their father. 12 Their father asked them, Which way did he go? For his sons had seen which way the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13 He said to his sons, Saddle the donkey for me. So they saddled the donkey and he rode on it, 1 King 13:11-13.

In the passage above and below, a prophet of the Lord is fooled by a lie. Apparently, this liar was paid off by King Jeroboam, persuaded to prophecize good and positive messages to enhance his reign. When news of a miracle performed by a visiting prophet from Judah reach this wayward man, he was desperate to meet him. When his own sons were unsuccessful, this discredited prophet makes up an encounter with an angel to change his mind.

He said, I may not return with you or go in with you, neither will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. 17 For I was told by the word of the Lord, You shall not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way that you came. 18 He answered, I am a prophet also, as you are. And an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied to him. 19 So the man from Judah went back with him and ate and drank water in his house, 1 Kings 13:16-19.

Taking this man at his word, this young prophet disobeys God by staying an extra day in this corrupt land. Although a loving God would forgive modern transgressions, God’s command was to not eat or drink another meal before leaving. While this doesn’t seem fair, obedience matters to God. Thus, while bending the rules on this occasion seemed okay, a lion was sent to kill this prophet on his way back home to Judah.

And after the prophet of the house had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the donkey for the man he had brought back. 24 And when he had gone, a lion met him by the road and slew him, and his corpse was cast in the way, and the donkey stood by it; the lion also stood by the corpse. 25 And behold, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown in the road, and the lion standing by the corpse, and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt. 26 When the prophet who brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, It is the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and slain him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to him, 1 Kings 13:23-26.

This story is mentioned in the Bible to serve as a remainder that obedience matters. Making up the rules as you go isn’t an option for a servant of God. While those outside the church may get away with telling a lie from time to time, you can’t fool God as Paul suggests in Galatians 6:7-8. You reap what you sow. Although you probably won’t cross paths with a lion, make sure you’re sowing seeds of encouragement rather than lies of deceit.

by Jay Mankus

Glory, Honor and Peace

Before stepping down as leader of Israel, Moses gives a farewell address in Deuteronomy 30. In the middle of this speech, Moses gives a call to action in verses 15-17. These words reveal Moses’ hope for the nation of Israel, to listen to and obey God’s commands in the Torah. Based upon the passage below, the apostle Paul revisits this topic by detailing the pros and cons of obedience and disobedience.

But for those who are self-seeking and self-willed and disobedient to the Truth but responsive to wickedness, there will be indignation and wrath. [And] there will be tribulation and anguish and calamity and constraint for every soul of man who [habitually] does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek (Gentile), Romans 2:8-9.

Paul gives three explanations for why individuals end up habitually doing evil. The first two, self-seeking and self-willed, directly impact the third. Whenever anyone is self-absorbed, certain aspects of reality are overlooked. When you add to this equation by justifying and rationalizing wrong actions, the Truth within the Bible is discarded or ignored.

But glory and honor and [heart] peace shall be awarded to everyone who [habitually] does good, the Jew first and also the Greek (Gentile), Romans 2:10.

Meanwhile, Paul promises three blessings for those who habitually do good: glory, honor and peace. While Romans 7:15-18 reveals that the ability to do good is hindered by our own sinful nature, Galatians 5:25 explains how the Holy Spirit can lead to good habits. Although you may be tempted to take short cuts or cross the boundaries set in the Bible, if you want to experience glory, honor and peace, doing good is the only path that promises these blessings.

by Jay Mankus

Storing Up Great Blessings

On October 3, 1789, George Washington made a proclamation as president to create the first Thanksgiving Day. Washington proclaimed, “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will.” This designation set the stage for the United States of America to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday every November.

Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear, revere, and worship You, goodness which You have wrought for those who trust and take refuge in You before the sons of men! – Psalm 31:19

Over the last 225 years, Thanksgiving has evolved, losing it’s original intent along the way. Instead of concentrating on giving thanks to the Almighty God, this celebration how turned into what are you thankful for. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, subtle changes to past traditions de-emphasize God’s role and call to obey the Lord’s will.

Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will], 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

The Bible is filled with reminders to give thanks. The Psalmist encourages readers to store up great blessings as you set your heart and mind on things above. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul urges first century Christians to give thanks to God in all circumstances. Just like a wedding vow, praise and thanks should exist for better or for worse. Thus, as Thanksgiving Day finally arrives, may you strive to store up great blessings by serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Not Just a Coincidence

Any well written drama includes a series of simultaneous events which peak the interest of viewers. Whether you are talking about a crime scene investigation, court case or murder mystery, things that happen at the same time are designed to lump the innocent in with the guilty individual or party. Following the clues, evidence and facts take an audience in an unexpected direction which ultimately exonerates the falsely accused while exposing who is to blame.

If you will listen diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, being watchful to do all His commandments which I command you this day, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you heed the voice of the Lord your God, Deuteronomy 28:1-2.

While driving home from work earlier in the week, the Holy Spirit opened my mind to something that I regularly overlook. Like James Stewart’s character (George Bailey) in It’s a Wonderful Life, my life is full of blessings. Despite a normal amount of disappointments, failures and trying times, the Lord has watched over my family and friends. Instead of thanking God for all the visible and invisible blessings in my life, I dismiss many of these occurrences to fate, luck and natural events.

But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God, being watchful to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command you this day, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you: Cursed shall you be in the city and cursed shall you be in the field, Deuteronomy 28:15-16.

The lesson God is trying to teach me is that this isn’t just a coincidence. Rather, the principles of Deuteronomy 28 are being played out daily. Listening to and obeying God results in favor in the form of accomplishments, blessings and success. Meanwhile, those who fail to accept, embrace or listen to the Bible’s teaching will suffer a series of setbacks. God uses humility to reunite lost and troubled souls with their Creator. Therefore, the next time you think about ignoring God’s omnipresence on earth, remember that blessings and curses is not a coincidence.

by Jay Mankus

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