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Tag Archives: C.S. Lewis

A Nation of False Witnesses

I was first introduced to the ten commandments through CCD, the Catholic version of Sunday School.  These ten standards were drilled into my mind as God’s expectations for human beings to follow.  As a young boy, I didn’t understand love or know how these principles would shape my life.  Yet, this portion of the Bible serves as the cornerstone for being civilized.  Anyone who adheres to the final six commandments follows the golden rule, treating others as you want to be treated.

12 “Honor (respect, obey, care for) your father and your mother, so that your days may be prolonged in the land the Lord your God gives you.

13 “You shall not commit murder (unjustified, deliberate homicide).

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal [secretly, openly, fraudulently, or through carelessness].

16 “You shall not testify falsely [that is, lie, withhold, or manipulate the truth] against your neighbor (any person), Exodus 20:12-16.

After attending seminary for two years, my understanding of the ten commandments grew.  Jesus’ response to a first century religious leader below highlights two distinct sections.  The first four commandments are focused on loving God.  The final six commandments emphasize loving your neighbor.  Within his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis refers to Cardinal and Theological virtues.  Anyone can follow the final six commandments if you are determined to do so.  However, loving God requires the Holy Spirit which is only available to those who enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-10.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].’ 40 The whole Law and the [writings of the] Prophets depend on these two commandments,” Matthew 22:36-40.

As I listen to cable news, talk shows and people throughout the course of my day, there is a growing crisis.  Either Americans don’t know the ten commandments, don’t care about these Old Testament commands or the searing of consciences has reached epidemic levels?  There are various mantras, narratives and talking points that are spewed daily.  If you change the channel or turn the page of a newspaper, these messages bombard human minds day after day.  When a different opinion or point of view is offered, attacks are made in the form of lies.  Maybe I am alone, but it appears that the United States is becoming a nation of false witnesses as both sides can’t be right  Perhaps, the ten commandments is the only thing that may reverse this trend by convicting souls to love God and love others.

by Jay Mankus

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Beyond the Golden Rule

Traces of a golden rule can be found in the early 17th century. The first usage of this term in the context of the Bible appears to occur in 1604.
Anglican preachers and theologians from Great Britain are credited for coining this expression. Charles Gibbon and Thomas Jackson are the first to paraphrase the words of Jesus with a succinct command: treat others the way you would want them to treat you.

Then one of the scribes [an expert in Mosaic Law] came up and listened to them arguing [with one another], and noticing that Jesus answered them well, asked Him, “Which commandment is first and most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first and most important one is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength,’ Mark 12:28-30.

After listening to a sermon last weekend on this topic, there is a flaw to the golden rule. It’s impossible to love others unless you first possess the love of God within your heart. C.S. Lewis refers to this concept as Theological Virtues in his book Mere Christianity. Anyone has access to Cardinal Virtues like prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude. However, theological virtues such as hope, faith and charity are only accessible via the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the only way to successfully live out the golden rule involves entering a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 5:1-5.

This is the second: ‘You shall [unselfishly] love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Admirably answered, Teacher; You truthfully stated that He is One, and there is no other but Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to [unselfishly] love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices,” Mark 12:31-33.

The apostle Paul provides a few verses that support this theory. Philippians 2:4 encourages individuals to look to the interests of others. However, unless you take care of your own needs first, you won’t be able to help and love others if your own spiritual house isn’t in order. Meanwhile, Paul also explains how to go beyond the golden rule in Romans 15:2. Pleasing your neighbor is expected through random acts of kindness. However, if you want to go the extra mile, build up your neighbor spiritually. Therefore, if you want to go beyond the golden rule, make it your ambition to plant spiritual seeds daily.

by Jay Mankus

Finding Answers in a Loss

At the end of last year, my daughter and I joined a volleyball league. Every Friday night until April, I am able to compete for an hour. While the initial reason for participating was to allow my daughter to sharpen her skills during the offseason, I find myself outclassed by much younger and athletic individuals. The ultimate purpose of any sport is to determine who is the best. Thus, when you lose more than you win, human nature begins to search for answers to explain why your team lost.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.,” Matthew 5:4.

In her 2017 song Can’t Live Without, Hollyn sings about someone who doesn’t know what they are chasing after. Using the context of a person driving in rush hour, sometimes you are so busy that lose sight of where you are actually going. Near the end of the lyrics, there is a transition which struck a nerve, ” Some people gotta lose it all to find out what they really want.” Progress, success and victory doesn’t require any need for reflection as positive momentum breeds confidence. Yet, embarrassment, failure and losing leads souls to ponder why.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me., 2 Corinthians 12:9

As a former professional athlete, I hate to lose, even if it’s playing a board game with my family at home. However, my desire to win takes joy away from competing. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis states if you get rid of competition, you eliminate pride. Thus, if you take your focus off of winning and turn it toward savoring the opportunity, it doesn’t matter what the final outcome or scoreboard reads. Thanks to Hollyn’s song, I am now able to see the big picture, a father who is able to spend quality time with his daughter. While our team’s record may be mediocre, I have found an answer in a loss.

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

 

 

The Jesus Check List

For the past 25 years, Thanksgiving serves as a dual purpose for my family.  The first is obvious, to reconnect, reflect and share how the past year has gone, either good, bad or indifferent.  The second is a precursor to Christmas, exchanging gift wish lists.  Thanks to Amazon, most of this is done online to avoiding writing down the same list several times on a piece of paper.  Nonetheless, as Christmas Day approaches, there is an internal list with decorations, gift wrapping and preparations that need to completed before you can actually enjoy Jesus’ birthday.

For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations],” Romans 10:10-11.

A 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman introduced another kind of list.  The Bucket List involves two men who have been each diagnosed with terminal cancer.  After meeting in the hospital for the first time, the billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole played by Nicholson finances a series of trips before each man dies.  In a race against the clock, these men invest their energy doing the things in life they always wanted to do, but never took the time.  Since the initial release of the Bucket List, several # movements have transformed others on the verge of death to pursue their own check list of dreams and goals to accomplish.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you], Romans 12:1-2.

My favorite list is one that gets little attention, but results in eternal rewards, the Jesus Check List.  Instead of going through life focusing on the things you want to experience, the Jesus Check List is based upon fulfilling God’s will for your life.  Before you can start this list, you need to join Jesus’ team as described by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:10-11.  The moment you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you gain access to the Holy Spirit.  C.S. Lewis refers to this as theological virtues in Mere Christianity, enabling new converts to obtain charity, faith and hope as you progress down Jesus’ Check List.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God [which represents all that Jesus Christ is and does], so that you will know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have eternal life. 14 This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us, 1 John 5:13-14.

As individuals begin to daily prayer, read the Bible and begin to worship God throughout the week, not just on Sunday’s, lives can be radically changed if you stick with the Jesus Check List.  The apostle Paul refers to this as a process, offering up your life each day as a living sacrifice to God.  This involves asking God a series of questions in the form of a prayer.  What do you want me to do today?  Where do you need me to go to help others?  Who needs to be encouraged, give me eyes to see?  How can I reach the lost; using the God given talents you have blessed me with?  If you take this blog to heart, you will be well on your way, certain of the eternal rewards awaiting you in heaven with each day you commit to serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Baby Steps

Baby steps are subtle advances in progress.  In the early months following birth, babies don’t possess the agility and strength to stand on their own.  However, as soon as infants begin to figure out how to crawl, many become like run away trains, difficult to catch.  From a spiritual point of view, the first baby step requires gaining access to God.  This occurs when individuals place their faith in Christ, Romans 10:9-10.

Therefore, since we have been justified [that is, acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God] by faith, [let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God [and the joy of reconciliation with Him] through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed). Through Him we also have access by faith into this [remarkable state of] grace in which we [firmly and safely and securely] stand. Let us rejoice in our hope and the confident assurance of [experiencing and enjoying] the glory of [our great] God [the manifestation of His excellence and power], Romans 5:1-2.

According to the apostle Paul, the next step you should take is listening to and reading the Bible, Romans 10:17.  Paul felt so strongly about this baby step that he wrote a letter to one of his young pupils, a teenager named Timothy.  Like a stern teacher, Paul stresses the importance of studying to prove yourself as a workman for God.  Although the Bible is no longer a class or subject in public education, you must become a diligent student of the Word to handle it correctly.

Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth, 2 Timothy 2:15.

At some point along the way, everyone needs a mentor to guide you throughout life.  In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis warns individuals against getting ahead of yourself.  As you set out to accomplish a goal, success is not defined by reaching the summit.  Rather, success is the process of arriving, one step at a time.  Therefore, if you fall away from God for a period of time, don’t try make amends all it once.  Rather, like an adult forced to learn how to walk all over again, take life one step at a time.

by Jay Mankus

Dueling Forces

Whether you accept this premise or not, there are dueling forces that exist on earth.  Previous illustrations have depicted an angel with wings whispering into one ear, with a demon urging individuals to do the exact opposite.  Former atheist C.S. Lewis referred to this invisible tug of war as dualism.  This theological term believes there are two equal and independent powers at the back of everything, one of them good and the other bad, and that this universe is the battlefield in which they fight out an endless war.

But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts], Galatians 5:16.

The apostle Paul applies spiritual elements to dualism in the passage above, revealing the Holy Spirit as the positive force and sinful nature as a series of negative impulses.  The presence of this spiritual battles make appreciating the little things in life difficult.  As soon as your heart is pierced by conviction, minds are bombarded by disparaging thoughts to diminish that which you should be thankful for.  Perhaps, this may explain the apostle Paul’s advice in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 about taking your thoughts captive.

For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do, Galatians 5:17.

One of Satan’s objectives is to turn joyful Christians into cynical souls, void of any excitement, hope or life.  When cold water is poured out over a blazing fire, it does little to extinguish the flames.  However, as steady rains persist like Tropical Storm Florence, drenching tired and weary believers with a deluge of trials, it doesn’t take long for even the strong to become comfortably numb.  In view of this harsh reality, prepare your heart, soul and mind for the powers of darkness, Ephesians 6:12.  Submit to God, resist the Devil and let your faith become rooted in Christ so that future storms won’t hinder your ability to appreciate the little things in life.

by Jay Mankus

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