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Tag Archives: Easter

30 Seconds of Courage

Audacity, boldness, and valor are words associated with courage. While the average lifespan of a male in the United States of America is 76 years of age, few ever demonstrate 30 seconds of courage while on earth. Fear of rejection, peer pressure, and political correctness keep most people confined, under wraps, afraid to go against the flow.

From that time forth Jesus began [clearly] to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders and the high priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised from death. Then Peter took Him aside to speak to Him privately and began to reprove and charge Him sharply, saying, God forbid, Lord! This must never happen to You! 23 But Jesus turned away from Peter and said to him, Get behind Me, Satan! You are in My way [an offense and a hindrance and a snare to Me]; for you are minding what partakes not of the nature and quality of God, but of men, Matthew 16:21-24.

Although some may talk a good game, when the opportunity to be courageous arrives, rarely does an individual rise to the challenge. Take Peter for example, the rock upon which God will build the church, Matthew 16:18. When Jesus was about to be arrested early Good Friday morning, Peter took up his sword. However, later that night when asked if he knew Jesus, Peter did the opposite with 30 seconds of cowardice.

You stubborn and stiff-necked people, still heathen and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. As your forefathers [were], so you [are and so you do]! 52 Which of the prophets did your forefathers not persecute? And they slew those who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, Whom you now have betrayed and murdered—53 You who received the Law as it was ordained and set in order and delivered by angels, and [yet] you did not obey it! – Acts 7:51-53

Despite Peter’s epic failure, there was one apostle who displayed 30 seconds of courage. Instead of recanting his faith in Jesus, Stephen gave a moving speech before being stoned to death. Oddly enough, the religious leader who gave the order to have Stephen killed is the soon to be apostle Paul. If it wasn’t for Stephen’s 30 seconds of courage, Paul’s life may have taken a different path. May the power of the Holy Spirit inspire you to demonstrate 30 seconds of courage this Easter Season.

by Jay Mankus

When Gusts of Doubt Uproot Your Faith

Every Easter pastors, priests, and teachers read passages in the Bible of disciples abandoning Jesus in His greatest time of need. When asked to pray late at night, they fell asleep. After being confronted about his relationship, Peter, a member of Jesus’ inner circle, denied knowing Jesus on three different occasions. As the winds of doubt began to blow on that original Good Friday, the only disciple not uprooted by the pressure to conform was John who took care of Mary after Jesus ascended into heaven.

Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind. For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord, [For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides], James 1:6-8.

According to first centurion historians, even Jesus’ earthly brother, James, did not believe until Resurrection Sunday. Perhaps, the passage above is a personal confession, disappointed by his own lack of faith. Instead using his God given ears to hear and eyes to see, gusts of doubt blinded James from Jesus’ true identity. Nearly 2000 years later, the gusts of doubt continue to blow. Some of these storms are hidden by gray clouds, appearing without a moments notice. When the sky clears, a trail of wounded souls and debris remain.

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. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive, Matthew 21:21-22.

The apostle Paul compares faith to a deeply rooted tree, Colossians 2:7, nourished and built up by Christ. Unfortunately, winds of doubt often separate believers from their source of light and life. After cursing an unproductive fig tree, the disciples were shocked by Jesus’ miraculous powers. Jesus uses this teachable moment to reveal how doubt impacts his followers. Therefore, the next time you feel the gusts of doubt begin to blow, clear your mind before prayer is exercised to secure a firm defense.

by Jay Mankus

So You Think You Had A Bad Weekend

Depending upon which historian you reference, Jesus was crucified some time around 30 AD. After hearing the disturbing news that the Coronavirus death toll has surpassed 15,000 in the United States and over 450,000 throughout the world, my mind was drawn back in time to the first Passion Week. Immediately following the emotional high of Palm Sunday, a series of events gradually turned the tide from celebration to sadness. You might want to compare your own weekend to what happened to the disciples.

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing, John 21:1-3.

First, Judas Iscariot exchanged his relationship with Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. When asked to pray for Jesus in his greatest moments of need, the remaining 11 disciples all fell asleep. After initially fighting to save their leader from being arrested, Jesus turned himself in. Moments later, fearful for his own life, the man given the nickname the rock, caved to peer pressure like the cowardly lion, denying knowing Jesus three times publicly. Only John, the beloved one was present in the final hours, standing by helplessly as Jesus as died on a cross. To make matters worse, Judas committed suicide after being overwhelmed by a spirit of guilt.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep, John 21:15-17.

If you flash back to the first Easter Sunday, Peter abandoned the ministry, going back to his old job as a fisherman. Instead of having a sunrise service, Peter went fishing in the middle of the night. Bringing a couple of the disciples along, they didn’t catch anything, a painful reminder of their epic failure. When providing instructions from the shore about fishing, the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus. However, after their great haul of fish, their eyes were opened to the resurrected Messiah. As you celebrate Easter in a different way, post Coronavirus, may your own eyes be open to the resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

A Tuesday After the Masters

Since the 2020 Masters has been postponed due to the Coronavirus, all that golf fans have are reruns of previous tournaments to watch this weekend. Hoping to catch an old broadcast last night, I ended up watching a portion of Feherty featuring Bernard Langer. During this interview, Langer spoke of the emptiness following his first major victory, the 1985 Masters. Following a practice round at Hilton Head, South Carolina with Bobby Clampett, Langer was invited to attend a Bible Study on Tuesday night.

Now there was a certain man among the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler (a leader, an authority) among the Jews,Who came to Jesus at night and said to Him, Rabbi, we know and are certain that You have come from God [as] a Teacher; for no one can do these signs (these wonderworks, these miracles—and produce the proofs) that You do unless God is with him. Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God, John 3:1-3.

After consulting with his wife, the Langer’s decided to go, listening to the PGA Tour’s chaplain speak about Nicodemus. As this message was proclaimed, Bernard related to Nicodemus, sensing that there was something more to life, but he didn’t know what it was. This Tuesday following the Master’s sowed for seed in Langer’s heart, a spiritual hunger to become born again. Although his decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior waited, months later Bernard finally yielded over control of his life.

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. 17 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 3:16-17.

After a sarcastic comment in John 3:4, Nicodemus shuts up, listening to the most famous verse in the Bible, up close and in person. Just like Bernard Langer, this encounter gradually changed Nick’s life. Based upon bread crumbs left behind by this disciple in John 7:50-52 and John 19:39, Nicodemus became a follower of Jesus, no longer ashamed to be associated with him. As the clock strikes midnight to announce Easter morning, you don’t need to attend a service to accept Jesus into your life, Romans 10:9-10. If you haven’t made this decision, don’t let this opportunity slip away.

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

Kenosis

The season of Lent ends this week.  This religious ceremony begins Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras concludes.  Since Lent lasts forty days, human nature offers individuals one last day to indulge your fleshly desires in the form of Fat Tuesday.  This Catholic tradition was designed to give Christians time to spiritually prepare themselves for Easter, giving up meat on Fridays during these six weeks.  The goal of this spiritual season is to empty yourself, to deny self so that you become more like Christ.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” Luke 9:23.

The Bible uses a Greek term to describe a similar process.  Kenosis refers to the renunciation of the divine nature in part by Christ based upon the virgin birth of his mother Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit.  In layman terms, kenosis is the relinquishment of divine attributes by Jesus Christ in becoming human.  To avoid any type of addiction to the sinful nature, Christians should strive to do the opposite, replacing selfish desires by making room for God.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me, Galatians 2:20.

The apostle Paul highlights this process in the verse above.    Starting over spiritually requires drastic measures, crossing out your own selfish ambitions with a devotion and passion to serve the Lord.  Although changes are hard to make permanently, this is where faith comes into the equation.  May the reality of Jesus’ resurrection inspire depressed individuals with a new sense of hope for transformation.  As Easter draws near, don’t be afraid to give your life over to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Year Without Church

Before his tragic death in a plane crash, Keith Green created the song Asleep in the Night.  Although the original context refers to someone sleeping in, missing church on Easter Sunday, this song applies to my current dilemma.  Due to my grave yard work schedule, I can’t seem to get my lazy butt out of bed on Sunday morning.  Subsequently, 2016 can be described as a year without church, the fewest weeks I’ve ever attended.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living, Luke 15:13”

I wish I had a decent excuse, but what good would that do.  Like any other sin, missing church involves a lack of discipline, choosing laziness over obedience.  Instead of receiving God’s blessings of fellowship, praise and words of inspiration, I have become like the prodigal who continues to move in the wrong decision.  Hopefully, I will come to my senses soon so that I can spent 2017 in the house of God.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you,” Luke 15:17-18.

When you miss a day praying or reading the Bible, you can’t get it back.  Sure, you might try to do twice the praying or reading the next day to make yourself feel better, but the truth is something else was more important to you on the days you tuned out God.  Part of me still sees the Lord from an Old Testament perspective, one of judgement and wrath.  Yet, the New Testament opens the door on a loving God, desperately waiting for his children to give Him the attention He is worthy of.  May you learn from the errors of my way by visiting a local church regularly and invest time at home daily with the living God of the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

A Song for the Season

Every so often I will hear a song that touches my heart or stirs my soul.  The artist who sings and or writes these special songs have everything fall into place.  In some cases its as if the hand of God, divine intervention or angelic inspiration led to the final result.  When it comes to Easter, I can’t think of a better song that summarizes this special season than Forever by Kari Jobe.

The moon and stars they wept
The morning sun was dead
The Saviour of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon him

If you had to give a sunrise sermon, a condensed message, the lyrics of Forever highlight the death and resurrection of Jesus and what it means for you and for me.  You don’t have to listen to a 30 or 60 minute sermon to understand what this day means for Christians. Although every song has its time and place, Forever has become an instant classic for me, now a popular worship selection for Sunday mornings.

One final breath he gave
As heaven looked away
The son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

Instead of trying to come up with a new angle, I thought the words of Forever would suffice.  It only takes three stanzas to summary Good Friday through Easter Sunday.  While the words vary slightly from the actual Bible verses, Forever nails it, so to speak, touching core principles about what Jesus’ victory over death means.  The final portion of the third stanza quotes 1 Corinthians 15, concentrating on verses 55-57.

The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
Has rendered you defeated

Wherever you are on this Easter Sunday, may the song Forever remind you of the greatest sacrifice ever made.

by Jay Mankus

The Land of Look Behind

Prior to the 1982 documentary, a region known as The Land of Look Behind served as a refuge from slavery.  Jamaica’s interior topography, called Cockpit County, includes a mountain range with dense vegetation.  When the opportunity presented itself, oppressed slaves fled to the hills, trying to avoid their masters who sent the police for their return.  Some were successful, able to chart out a new life.  Unfortunately, most were caught; only able to imagine what could have been.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Living with regrets can be agonizing, wishing you can go back in time to change the course of history.  Yet, the reality of this life is that guilt, shame and remorse hover over sinful human beings.  There are many days I feel like a hostage, unable to break free of the hold of bad habits that have taken control of my decision making.  Subsequently, the words of Romans 7:15 have come to fruition in my life.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. – Romans 7:15

Now that Easter has passed, its important to look behind before you can move ahead.  Although problems will continue to exist, reflecting on past failures can set the stage for future success.  Since the story of the resurrection is fresh in the minds of believers, may the power of the Holy Spirit elevate individuals to new heights.  If the Pentecost could transform the disciples, why can’t the same Spirit inspire souls to usher in heaven on earth today?  Therefore, it’s time to catch a glimpse of the land of what can be.

by Jay Mankus

 

Thorns of the Flesh

And twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” – Matthew 27:29

In the passage above, Jesus’ head endured excruciating pain when Roman soldiers forced a crown of thorns into his head.  This particular species of thorn is only found in Israel.  The tips of each extend beyond two inches in length.  Similar crowns can be purchased online as even an inch of cardboard padding can not keep the longest thorns from breaking through their box.  If the slightest contact can draw blood from a finger, imagine the flow that poured forth fooling this cruel act thousands of years ago.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. –        2 Corinthians 12:7

Although recent persecution of Christians in the Middle East has brought back crucifixion, most face a new type of danger.  According to the apostle Paul, some face spiritual anguish in the form of illness, physical limitations or oppression from demons.  While you won’t draw blood, these moments, periods or trials can be extremely draining, sucking the lives out of souls.  In your weakness, you must lean on Christ to keep you strong.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. – Proverbs 18:21

Meanwhile, some may be wounded by words, cut to the heart and pierced by those whom you love.  When you reach this point or experience the pain of disappointment, remember the message of Hebrews 4:14-16.  Jesus has been tempted in every way just as we are, but did not sin.  In view of this truth, when the thorns of the flesh are pressed against your mind, cry out to Jesus for help.  Pray the prayer in 2 Corinthians 12:9-12 so that in your weak moments Christ will be strong!

by Jay Mankus

 

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