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Just Don’t Read…Get the Know the Shepherd

The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters. He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake, Psalm 23:1-3.

Sheep are mentioned more than 500 in the Bible, more than any other animal.  Sheep were important to nomads and the agricultural life of Hebrews in the Old Testament.  Whether you’re talking about the 23rd Psalm or the Parable of the Lost Sheep, this animal is used to symbolize the relationship between God and his followers.  As you read the beginning of Luke 15, Jesus is like a shepherd who is willing to leave behind the faithful sheep to find the one who has wandered off.

Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over, Psalm 23:4-5.

Unfortunately, stubborn individuals are resistant to change. While people may experience moments of guilt from within their conscience to stop what they are doing, the disobedient tend to press on, full steam ahead. Regardless of how pure in heart that you may be, everyone dabbles in rebellion, especially when you come across a rule that doesn’t make any sense. However, until the Biblical Shepherd steers you in the right direction, you’ll do lots of wandering until you find your way home.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). 11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep, John 10:10-11.

The disciple whom Jesus loved compared his spiritual leader to a good shepherd. Instead referring to an actual shepherd tending after his sheep, Jesus served as a father figure to shelter human beings from the Devil. While the attacks of this spiritual enemy have continued long after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, just don’t read the Bible, get to know the Good Shepherd, aka God’s one and only son Jesus Christ. As you open the Bible, the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see what it takes to live the abundant life that Jesus promised in the passage above.

by Jay Mankus

The Fine Line Between Compromise and Tolerant

According to Luke, a woman named Lydia was the first believer at the church of Thyatira, Acts 16:14. This church first met outside along the banks of a nearby river. After the apostle Paul baptized the members of her household, Lydia convinces Paul to stick around for a few days. Following Paul’s departure for Philippi, the disciple whom Jesus loved gives an update on the church at Thyatira. John begins with a list of positives. However, in an attempt to appease others, there was one obvious blemish.

But I have this against you: that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess [claiming to be inspired], and who is teaching and leading astray my servants and beguiling them into practicing sexual vice and eating food sacrificed to idols, Revelation 2:20.

Whenever an individual comes to faith in Christ, God meets us where we are in life. Nonetheless, there is an expectation that as you develop, learn and mature spiritually, you should draw closer to God. The New Testament calls new Christians to be set set apart by living according to the standards of the Bible. Jesus’ goals for his followers is to become Light in this World and Salt of the Earth. Yet, when uninformed Christians become lazy, without checking the Bible first, subtle compromises are conceived.

I gave her time to repent, but she has no desire to repent of her immorality [symbolic of idolatry] and refuses to do so, Revelation 2:21.

The term tolerate allows for the existence, occurrence, or practice of something that one does not necessarily like or agree with. Based upon the acceptance of Jezebel’s teachings, false practices were embraced by the church at Thyatira. This is known as Syncretism, the blending of religion with cultures and schools of thought. Whenever Christians deviate from the Bible to merge with social norms, the fine line between compromise and tolerant is broken. The next time you have an urge to blend in like a chameleon, remember God’s call to shine like the stars, Philippians 2:15.

by Jay Mankus

Leaving God’s Footprint Behind

The Roman lyrical poet Horace first coined the Latin phrase carpe diem.  When translated into English, carpe diem loosely means to “seize the day.”  This may explain why professor John Keating, a poetry teacher played by Robin Williams in the film Dead Poets Society references this expression.  When applied to a Christian faith, believers should be focused on leaving God’s footprint behind.

For Barnabas was a good man [privately and publicly—his godly character benefited both himself and others] and he was full of the Holy Spirit and full of faith [in Jesus the Messiah, through whom believers have everlasting life]. And a great number of people were brought to the Lord.  And Barnabas left for Tarsus to search for Saul; Acts 11:24-25.

Luke introduces a man named Joseph in Acts 4:36-37 who developed the nick name Barnabas, “son of encouragement” for his generous donations to the church.  When Jesus’ disciples were skeptical of Saul’s conversion to Christ, it was Barnabas who defended his faith, Acts 9:27.  In the passage above, Luke reveals the secret behind Barnabas’ success, full of the Holy Spirit.  At some point, God called Barnabas to disciple Saul, investing one year of his life to nurture his faith.

And when he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. For an entire year they met [with others] in the church and instructed large numbers; and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians, Acts 11:26.

By the time these men left, Antioch became a symbol of God’s footprint on earth.  As members of the church emulated the life and teachings of Jesus, community members referred to this group of believers as Christians.  Today, Professor William Rees is the father of carbon footprints, derived from a paper, Environment and Urbanization, written in 1992.  While Christians should be good stewards of the earth God created, the Holy Spirit is searching for individuals who want to leave behind God’s footprint wherever you go and whatever you do.

by Jay Mankus

Living Under Satan’s Yoke

In the context of farming, yokes are a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull. This devise unite donkeys, oxen or mules to work together. As a pet owner, if I didn’t have my dog on a collar, harness or leash, she would run free, wandering aimlessly through my neighborhood. This is a positive example of a yoke.

For such men are counterfeit apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, since Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 So it is no great surprise if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness, but their end will correspond with their deeds, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.

On the flip side, yokes have a negative connotation. Groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have put touring Circus’ out of business. Banning previously legal practices has made it impossible to safely control wild animals used in traveling Circuses. From a spiritual sense, one of Jesus’ disciples compares the Devil to a lion on the prowl, searching for his next victim, 1 Peter 5:8. When human beings lose control of their flesh, Satan uses your sinful nature to oppress you. Bondage is how souls begin to be held captive, living under Satan’s yoke.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light,” Matthew 11:28-30.

In the passage below, Jesus eludes to spiritual yokes. Some people are burdened by religious practices that focus on traditions rather than a relationship with God. Jesus hates seeing individuals weighed down by the worries of life. Thus, the process toward healing is laid out above by laying down your burdens at the feet of Jesus. Some try to fix their problems on their own, but only Jesus can provide permanent healing. If this blog finds you worn out by being under Satan’s yoke, come to Jesus on your knees, using prayer as a vehicle for change.

by Jay Mankus

The Greatest Temptation

Then Jesus returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter, Matthew 26:40.

When the Son of God spoke in the first century, eager followers flocked to hear his teaching.  Afterward the needy, poor and sick lined up, pushing their way to the front, hoping for a miracle.  To a certain extent, the twelve disciples became complacent, taking their access to the Messiah for granted.  During special occasions Jesus left nine disciples behind, confiding in his inner circle composed of James, John and Peter.  During his greatest temptation, surrendering to religious leaders to be beaten, crucified and left to die, Jesus urges his disciples to pray late into the night.  An hour later Jesus returns to find his trusted leaders sleeping.

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41.

Disappointed, Jesus addresses the unseen battle going on within the human body.  The Spirit is willing to yield spiritual fruit detailed in Galatians 5:22-23.  Unfortunately, these traits often lose out to a weakened flesh, Galatians 5:19-21, by giving into temporary pleasures.  Way too often the events of Eden in Genesis 3 are re-enacted daily with forbidden fruits replaced by modern delicacies.  While current readers can take Jesus’ advice at face value, all but one disciple were about to abandon Jesus in his greatest time of need.  John, the one whom Jesus loved is the only disciple who doesn’t go into hiding.  Only one man put Jesus’ words into practice.

He went away a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done,” Matthew 26:42.

Jesus was a victim of a mob mentality, innocent of the charges made against him accept of course for being the son of God.  Overcome by emotion, Jesus pours out his heart to God the Father in prayer.  If this was any other person, justification would be made to not go through with this sacrifice.  However, without Jesus’ death, there would be no forgiveness, left to rely on Old Testament animal sacrifices.  Realizing this fact, Jesus submits to God’s will, surrendering early Friday morning.  While there will always be new temptations that arise and attack your soul, the greatest temptation is to reject God’s will for your life.  May you find your purpose on earth using Romans 12:1-2 as a guide.  From here its up to you to apply Matthew 26:41 so that you will keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

 

More Than A Mindset

There will always be people that you meet in life who think they know everything.  Whenever you interact with these individuals there is a tendency to hear comments such as “I know how you feel.”  Trying to relate to your situation, this mindset is flawed, clouded by arrogance, pride or narcissism.  In order to obtain a Christ like perspective, you must develop a balanced approached, more than merely a mindset.

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns,” Matthew 16:23.

During a meaningful conversation with his disciples, Jesus introduces expectations for those who desire to follow him.  Based upon the passage above, Peter possessed preconceived notions.  This mindset bred selfishness, preventing Peter from understanding the concerns of God.  Becoming a disciple is not just actions inspired by faith.  Rather, actions must work hand in hand as individuals consider the concerns of God by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me, Matthew 16:24.

There are 3 stages which must be completed before a genuine disciple produces spiritual fruit.  The initial step involves fulfilling Galatians 2:20, dying to self so that the concerns of God will replace selfish thoughts.  As this transformation begins to take shape, Jesus wants his followers to take up their cross.  Either this means to take ownership of your faith or to literally pick up the cross like Simon in Matthew 27:32.  Just like the saying there is no I in team, following Jesus refers to crossing out the I or me so that God’s kingdom becomes your sole priority.  This is the criteria Matthew details for a disciple which is more than a mindset.

by Jay Mankus

Tears of Healing

The gospel according to John was written for a specific purpose.  The Holy Spirit led the disciple whom Jesus loved to concentrate on a collection of miracles.  According to the book Master of All Trades, each miracle of Jesus demonstrates an unique God given power over death, elements, time and so on.  In one account, a man blind from birth experiences tears of healing after seeing his reflection for the first time in a nearby pond.

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name, John 20:30-31.

Due to a battle with iritis of the eye, my vision tends to come and go.  Some days I wake up and my sight is clear.  Other times I feel like I’m in some sort of fog.  Although there are many things I can’t control, my hope is in Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord who heals.  During a Raymond Lee Band concert last Saturday night, I was moved by a few songs.  As I was brought to tears, the water in my eyes served as a source of healing.  The rest of the evening my vision was completely clear like the healed blind man in John.

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written, John 21:25.

At the conclusion of John’s gospel, he reveals the purpose of his book.  Whenever anyone gives a testimony or shares about an account of a miracle, faith spreads.  While some may never be an eyewitness, those who experience the supernatural instill hope within others.  Unfortunately, healing doesn’t visit everyone as Paul suggests in 2 Corinthians 12.  However, if you carefully examine the minor details within your life, perhaps your eyes will be opened to a miracle that can bring tears of healing.

by Jay Mankus

Not Without A Price

Novelist Orson Scott Card made a interesting observation in regards to sacrifice.  “Happiness is not a life without pain, but rather is life in which pain is traded for a worthy price.”  Whether you are referring to freedom of speech, defending a just cause or standing up for what you believe, nothing is accomplished with a cost.

Perhaps, your reputation takes a hit, attacked by those with opposing views.  Or friendships are estranged as your worldview comes in direct conflict with a person you care about.  Either way, actions, choices and decisions will create enemies, hatred or jealousy.  What you need to determine is… is it worth the price?

When becoming of disciple of Jesus became popular, motives for following were mixed.  Some wanted to join because it was cool, others for the fame and a few for the right reasons.  Thus, Jesus set the bar high in Luke 9:57-62, causing many to quit, unable to pay the price.  Whether you are excelling as an athlete, student or servant, to become the greatest in anything takes unswerving devotion.  May you consider the costs, make up your mind and take a leap of faith, paying the price today to achieve a better tomorrow.

by Jay Mankus

Inquiring Minds Want Answers

One of the most difficult tasks I have ever been assigned was trying to teach Junior High students the Bible for 5 years.  If I wrote down all the questions asked during my lectures, I could have written a thorough sex ed curriculum.  While some of my students were simply trying to waste time, others asked great questions that needed a reply.  When inquiring minds want answers, those in authority or leadership positions must feed these hungry souls.

As I started to read the Old Testament again, memories of these questions reverberated within my mind.  Once deemed foolish, I am beginning to share a similar interest into the mysteries of the Bible.  For example, why is nakedness now equated with shame, Genesis 2:25?  Did Cain marry his sister, Genesis 4:17 or did God created other females beside Eve, Genesis 5:1-2?  Does Genesis 4:10 explain the concept of ghosts, haunted houses and dead spirits which still dwell on certain properties?  Finally, does Genesis 6:1-4 refer to aliens, fallen angels or mixed marriages between giants and normal human beings?

I wish I could answer these questions with a sense of certainty and clarity, but I can’t.  Theologians vary, debating these and other topics for centuries.  All I can do is provide my best guess based upon my years of study and training.

1) Marriage is a sacred covenant that you make to another man or woman.  Once you consecrate this bond, there should be no shame among one another.

2) Based upon the time line of Leviticus 18, it appears God allowed intermarriage initially until the population of Israel was large enough.  Once written and communicated by Moses, this type of act was prohibited.

3) Since Jesus and his disciple use the term ghost throughout all 4 gospels, it appears that ghosts and spirits did exist by the first century.  Therefore, the growing accounts of paranormal activity today suggest what happened to Abel certainty does occur.

4) Before answering this final question, Genesis 6:1-4 is one of the most controversial passages in the Bible.  If you link the great pyramids of Egypt, the great wall of China and other architectural wonders of the world, some credit this advanced knowledge to either aliens or fallen angels.  However, the Tower of Babel is erected due to an one world language, making nothing impossible for mankind according to Genesis 11:3-6.  Thus, like many mysteries, you will have to wait until the after life to know for sure.

As inquiring minds send me more questions, I will try my best to answer each from a biblical perspective.  Continue to following the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, testing everything you hear or read with the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

From One Shepherd to Another

The older you get in life, your chances increase that someone close to you will die.  Thus, most people will attend a funeral at sooner or later.  One of the most common passages read during funerals is Psalm 23, often quoting the entire chapter.  When my mom’s father passed away several years ago in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, my family was at his side as he breathed his last breath.  My sister Cindy, read to him Psalm 23:1-6 over and over again to ease his pain.

According to 1 Samuel 16:11, David was a shepherd boy, tending his father’s sheep.  In Psalm 23, David uses imagery, possibly recounting his own experience as God’s Spirit inspired him to write about a heavenly shepherd.  Knowing the daily requirements of a seasoned shepherd, David pours out his heart, placing his faith in God’s hand.  Meanwhile, John, the disciple whom Jesus loved shares a similar account in chapter 10 of his gospel.  John quotes Jesus in 17 of the first 18 verses, explaining there is only one way into heaven, through the gate of the Shepherd, who know and follow his voice.

In reality, human beings are dumb creatures like sheep, like the blind leading the blind.  When things are going well, its easy to navigate through life, whether you have a GPS or not.  However, as you encounter canyons, valleys or wastelands, relying on a shepherd may be the difference between life and death.  When push comes to shove or where faith meets fire, who will you call to come to your aide?  From One shepherd to another, come back to the pen before its too late, John 10:17.  The Great Shepherd is calling you home, retreat now to be by his side, Psalm 23:6.

by Jay Mankus

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