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Tag Archives: encourage

Learning to Digest Tough Meat

Some cuts of meat are naturally tougher than others.  Depending upon the amount of muscle, connective tissue, and fat, pieces of meat will vary from tender to tough.  Brisket, chuck roast, round and shank cuts of meat are tough to chew.  Meanwhile, Porterhouse, rib-eyes, sirloin and T-bone steak cuts are tender. The toughest cuts of meat have a lot of connective tissue and come from a heavily exercised muscle.  While the wealthy may skip these types of cuts completely, middle class meat lovers need to learn how to chew and digest tough meat.

So put aside every trace of malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander and hateful speech; like newborn babies [you should] long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may be nurtured and grow in respect to salvation [its ultimate fulfillment], if in fact you have [already] tasted the goodness and gracious kindness of the Lord, 1 Peter 2:1-3.

One of Jesus’ disciples uses the analogy of a newborn baby to illustrate a spiritual truth.  At birth infants are dependent upon their mothers, relying on breast milk as their only source of food.  Over the first few years of life, mothers will eventually wean their children off of breast milk to transition toward fruit and vegetables.  As babies grow and mature into children, teeth will enable them to learn how to chew and digest meat.  To avoid the threat of choking, parents usually take their time, allowing children to slowly perfect the art of chewing meat before swallowing.

Therefore let us get past the elementary stage in the teachings about the Christ, advancing on to maturity and perfection and spiritual completeness, [doing this] without laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of teaching about washings (ritual purifications), the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. [These are all important matters in which you should have been proficient long ago.] And we will do this [that is, proceed to maturity], if God permits. For [it is impossible to restore to repentance] those who have once been enlightened [spiritually] and who have tasted and consciously experienced the heavenly gift and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted and consciously experienced the good word of God and the powers of the age (world) to come, and then have fallen away—it is impossible to bring them back again to repentance, since they again nail the Son of God on the cross [for as far as they are concerned, they are treating the death of Christ as if they were not saved by it], and are holding Him up again to public disgrace, Hebrews 6:1-6.

The Old Testament uses the phrase to chew the cud to encourage believers to meditate upon the Word of God, slowing digesting the context and meaning of biblical words.  The New Testament compares eating meat to spiritual maturity.  The older you become, the more your life should reflect spiritual development and growth.  Yet, when responding to first century questions asked by his disciples, Jesus never gives someone an answer.  Rather, Jesus forces his followers to think for themselves with an end goal of becoming spiritually mature, Matthew 9:10-13.  However, when individuals backslide in their faith, reverting to basic elementary teachings, God expects more.  The Bible is full of complex and difficult teachings that require time to digest.  Therefore, if you want to reach your full potential as a follower of Christ, it’s time to start digesting tough spiritual meat.

by Jay Mankus

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Witnessing the Grace of God

Grace in the biblical sense refers to favor and goodness that God shows to mankind.  Thus, any example of a good, kind or merciful act can be described as the grace of God.  During the first century, a church with little guidance and oversight from the apostles experienced a great spiritual awakening.  When news of this special anointing from God reached Jerusalem, Barnabas was sent to see what was happening.  According to Luke, Barnabas’ first impression was that he was an eyewitness of the grace of God at work.

The news of this reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the grace of God [that was bestowed on them], he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with an unwavering heart to stay true and devoted to the Lord, Acts 11:22-23.

As soon as I read the passage above, I wanted to know what does the grace of God look like?  Just as the Holy Spirit fell upon Gentiles in Caesarea, this same phenomena began to take place in Antioch.   The words that Barnabas conveys to Luke is the bestowing of the grace of God.  As Gentiles repented of their sins, turned to Jesus for forgiveness and were baptized, lives were transformed.  While visiting Antioch, Barnabas spent time talking to these new converts.  Based upon these conversations, Barnabas found unwavering hearts who stayed true and devoted to the Lord.

For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation], Ephesians 2:8-9.

Reading this portion of the book of Acts makes me wonder, where is the grace of God today?  Is faith dead or has the sinful nature blinded modern Christians from recognizing the grace of God?  The apostle Paul makes an interesting comment about grace in the passage above.  Grace is all God as there is nothing human beings can take credit for.  This gift is either accepted, put on hold for a while or rejected.  When grace is embraced, this is accomplished through faith.  However, Paul makes it clear that no one should boast or take credit in any way.  In view of this, may the Holy Spirit open our eyes today so that we too can witness the grace of God.

by Jay Mankus

Do Spiritual Trances Still Exist?

Authors of the Bible received divine inspiration to convince and encourage them to write a specific book.  In the case of Acts, Luke was given direct access to the apostle Paul.  This enabled Luke to highlight amazing encounters with apostles and some of Jesus’ disciples.  In the passage below, Peter reflects upon an unusual experience while praying.  Luke compares this to a trance as if Peter is day dreaming in a half-conscious state.  Before this spiritual trance concluded, Peter found himself in a hypnotic state with an element of suspended animation.

The next day, as they were on their way and were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof of the house about the sixth hour (noon) to pray, 10 but he became hungry and wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared he fell into a trance; Acts 10:9-10.

My initial response to this event pondered, “do spiritual trances still exist today?”  When God speaks to individuals through a still small voice, people are left to wonder where did that come from.  When awkward, bizarre or strange feelings fade away, there has to be a rationale explanation.  Since Peter was about to pray, Luke focuses on the spiritual element of this trance.  God is teaching Peter that Moses laws on ceremonial cleanness no longer applies in the New Testament.  This was the last stumbling block remaining that prevented Peter from sharing the good news about Jesus Christ to Gentiles, non Jews.  Thus, this trance sets the stage for the rest of the book of Acts as the apostle Paul travels beyond Judea and Samaria to share the gospel.

And he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet descending, lowered by its four corners to the earth, 12 and it contained all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “Not at all, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common (unholy) and [ceremonially] unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, no longer consider common (unholy).” 16 This happened three times, and then immediately the object was taken up into heaven, Acts 10:11-16.

The closest I have come to a spiritual trance is a vision I received in college.  At this time, I attended a weekly accountable group for high school and college students.  These people all experienced a Chrysalis weekend, a three day retreat which compares the Christian life to a caterpillar that undergoes a transformation into a butterfly.  During consecutive weeks of inaction, one of my friends continued to fail in his faith.  After encouraging Eric toward the most logical course of action, I had the same dream two nights in a row.  While walking through a Christian bookstore, I turned the corner seeing the title of this book.  This was the exact topic Eric needed to strengthen his faith.  One day later, this dream became reality as I found the book in my dream and brought it for my friend.  In my mind, this true story proves spiritual trances still exit.

by Jay Mankus

A Consequence for Failing to Listen

For three years, Jesus poured his heart, soul and mind into twelve men. Whether eating, drinking, lodging or traveling together, Jesus trained these disciples on what it means to be a Christian. While the phrase “let him who have ears listen” is not widely recorded in the New Testament, this expression was likely repeated daily. Like the old E.F. Hutton commercial, when Jesus talks everyone should listen.

And other seed fell into good soil, and as the plants grew and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundred times [as much as had been sown].” And He said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear and heed My words,” Mark 4:8-9.

Unfortunately, busyness, distractions and timing influence your degree of listening. When I’m tense, tired or interruptions occur, my mind wanders. Thus, even when motivational speakers convict, encourage or inspire you to act, listening is a two step process. First, you must clearly hear what has been instructed. Second, heeding the words of Jesus requires a special attention to details, noticing the big picture. Without these two elements working together, the good news about Jesus Christ falls upon deaf ears.

Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your countrymen; you shall listen to Him and obey everything He tells you. 23 And it will be that every person that does not listen to and heed that Prophet will be utterly destroyed from among the people,’ Acts 3:22-23.

During a sermon given by Peter, a passage from the Old Testament is quoted. Peter is trying to connect with his mainly Jewish audience by revealing a prophecy made by Moses. Without beating around the bush, Peter uses a message of fear to get the attention of this crowd. In this day of political correctness, suggesting that heaven isn’t for everyone results in outrage and persecution. Yet, Peter states that not hearing and taking heed of Jesus’ teaching will result in spiritual destruction. May this warning prompt hearts to develop a keen sense of listening.

by Jay Mankus

Speed Trap

Back in 1986, I was introduced to the need for speed. The film Top Gun coincided with the year I received my driver’s license. Thus, when Maverick and Goose approach their fighter jet, played by Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards, I understood their conversation, “I feel the need, the need for speed.”

Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]; James 1:19.

I was naïve back then, unaware of the speed traps lurking around each corner. Nine months after I got my license I received my first speeding ticket, flying down the St. George’s Bridge, oblivious to the cop at the bottom of the hill. This past Monday, I spent the day in traffic court for my son Daniel who received a ticket Christmas Eve, driving to my parents house after work. Hopefully, he too learned a valuable listen.

For the [resentful, deep-seated] anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God [that standard of behavior which He requires from us], James 1:20.

The Bible has an interesting perspective on speed traps. Instead of focusing on driving, the context above refers to speeding up and slowing down. The earthly brother of Jesus encourages first century Christians to be quick to listen. Apparently, the need for speed is centered around becoming a better listener. Meanwhile, you must fight the urge to become angry, slowing down as a form of discipline to tame your tongue. Therefore, the next time you get behind the wheel, dial in your ears toward heaven so that you avoid any urge for a lead foot or road rage.

by Jay Mankus

Powerful in Deed and Word

The reality show Undercover Boss premiered in February of 2010. Business owners, CEO’s and presidents go undercover to interact with employees. While disguises vary, the employee’s impression will prove to the boss how important their job is to them. During a seven mile trip from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus performs a similar act on a couple of his disciples. Jesus plays coy, pretending not to know what happened three days earlier. According to Luke 24:16, no one recognized Jesus, playing the part of an undercover boss.

He asked, “What things?” And they replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, Luke 24:19.

Near the end of this discussion, one disciple makes an interesting observation. While reflecting upon his life, this man compares Jesus to a prophet whose deeds and words are powerful. Jesus wasn’t all talk, no action. Rather, compassion led to miracles, day after day, helping those who came to Jesus as a last resort. Despite the compliments given to Jesus, these men lacked hope, faith and joy, acting like modern defeated Christians.

For indeed you already do practice it toward all the believers throughout Macedonia [by actively displaying your love and concern for them]. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, that you excel [in this matter] more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to live quietly and peacefully, and to mind your own affairs and work with your hands, just as we directed you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders [exhibiting good character, personal integrity, and moral courage worthy of the respect of the outside world], and be dependent on no one and in need of nothing [be self-supporting], 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12.

The apostle Paul encourages the congregation of Thessalonica to practice displaying the love of God. Instead of speaking too much, Paul urges believers to live out their faith quietly. Unless you earn the respect of outsiders, you won’t be able to expand the gospel. Thus, while some people find it easy to talk to strangers, living out your faith is more important. When the timing is right, doors will open to further God’s kingdom. Until then, may your deeds be just as powerful as your words.

by Jay Mankus

Restoring God’s Prophecy Over Your Life

A prophecy is compared to a miracle of knowledge. This supernatural declaration is spoken by a man or woman of God who has earned the reputation for disclosing prophetic messages that come true. Many Old Testament prophets had a success rate of over 90% with some not fulfilled by the end of their life. Unfortunately, modern prophets have a much lower rate of accuracy, leaving behind a wave of doubt that discredits anyone who possesses the gift of discernment today. One of the most famous prophecies in the Bible is Jesus’ words to Simon Peter about becoming the rock upon which first century churches were built.

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of the living God.” 17 Then Jesus answered him, “Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, favored by God] are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood (mortal man) did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades (death) will not overpower it [by preventing the resurrection of the Christ]. 19 I will give you the keys (authority) of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth [gwill have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth will have [already] been loosed in heaven,” Matthew 16:15-19.

At some point in Peter’s life, this personal prophecy went to his head. On numerous occasions Jesus’ disciples debated who was the greatest among them. While not verbalized in scripture, I am sure Peter quoted Jesus, “I am the rock, what are you?” Thus, on the Eve of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus tries to warn Peter and the others, “the Spirit is willing but the body is weak.” Falling asleep while Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane serves as a foreshadowing, a precursor to Peter denying knowing Jesus in public three times. In the passage below, Jesus restores Peter’s confidence about God’s prophecy over his life. However, not without pain as Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times, just like his public denial. After this conversation Peter became a new man, able to fulfill Jesus’ final prophecy in John 21:18, crucified upside down on a cross.

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these [others do—with total commitment and devotion]?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You [with a deep, personal affection, as for a close friend].” Jesus said to him, “Feed My lambs.” 16 Again He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me [with total commitment and devotion]?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You [with a deep, personal affection, as for a close friend].” Jesus said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me [with a deep, personal affection for Me, as for a close friend]?” Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you [really] love Me [with a deep, personal affection, as for a close friend]?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You [with a deep, personal affection, as for a close friend].” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep, John 21:15-17.

Depending upon your own relationships through out life, you may not have encountered a prophet. For those who haven’t been blessed by an individual, the Bible is filled with rhemas. A rhema is a Greek term that refers to an utterance or thing said. Anytime anyone opens the Bible, the Holy Spirit is able to convict, encourage, inspire or uplift souls through the living Word of God, Hebrews 4:12. Some of these passages refer to the future Christians. For example, the apostle Paul writes about the good works God has prepared in advance for a congregation in Ephesus, Ephesians 2:10. Therefore, even if you have yet to have an individual prophecize over your life, God has something special in store for you. As the Bible prompts hearts, restores minds and fans into flame spiritual gifts and talents, it won’t be long until the Holy Spirit fulfills God’s prophecy over your own life.

by Jay Mankus

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