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Tag Archives: Easter

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

 

Not Just A Seasonal Thing

After the post-Christmas sales end, stores will be transformed over night trading in candy canes for Valentine’s Day chocolate.  Once presents under the tree are unwrapped tomorrow, birthday wishes will begin to enter the minds of children as well as those young at heart.  Unfortunately, if you allow consumerism to flood your thoughts, spiritual holidays will become a seasonal thing.

You don’t have to study statistics to recognize annual church attendance spikes each Christmas and Easter.  Somewhere in between, the message falls upon deaf ears, as the curious turn their attention to the next vacation or time off.  Subsequently, individuals have gotten good at placing God in a box a few times years, taking Him out of the attic bi-annually.

For me and those of faith, Christmas is not just a seasonal event.  In my moment of need, I exchanged a self-centered life style for a Purpose Driven Life, Psalm 118:5-7.  While my ways are far from perfect, a new peace surpasses my formal understanding, Philippians 4:7, broadening my perspective.  Thus, each day I revisit the manger, cross and resurrection to renew the seed of faith sown in my heart, Romans 10:9-10.  May the miracle of Christmas bring you to a similar place this season and throughout the year.

by Jay Mankus

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