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Drop It!

Everyone has at least one member of their family who feels like they always have to get in the last word. Instead of letting a comment go without a response, the temptation to reply is indulged. This character flaw often leads to arguments, heated debates and never ending disputes. Thus, before tempers flare, someone must intervene with a simple message, “drop it!”

So kill (deaden, deprive of power) the evil desire lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry (the deifying of self and other created things instead of God). It is on account of these [very sins] that the [holy] anger of God is ever coming upon the sons of disobedience (those who are obstinately opposed to the divine will), Among whom you also once walked, when you were living in and addicted to [such practices], Colossians 3:5-7.

The apostle Paul refers to this expression in the passage above. Instead of focusing on the negative, Paul begins chapter 3 with the ideal, “setting your hearts and minds on things above, Colossians 3:1-4. After setting the bar for Christians to reach for, Paul does a reality check by referencing acts of the sinful nature. These desires are natural until individuals make a decision to follow Jesus. This is when believers must drop their former practices.

Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper]. 13 Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive]. 14 And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony], Colossians 3:12-14.

Paul recognizes that certain things will be hard to drop, especially forgiving those who have severely hurt you in the past. Thus, Paul urges individuals to forgive others just as Christ has forgiven you. Perhaps, Paul is referencing the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:14-15, where Jesus introduces the forgiveness clause. Therefore, if you want to receive God’s forgiveness, drop any bitterness in your heart now to ensure your own forgiveness.

by Jay Mankus

Unwrapping the Theology of Christmas

The word theology simply means the science of God. Understanding theology isn’t always easy, but to grasp the true meaning of Christmas you have to make one presupposition. Since Old Testament prophets write about the coming of a Messiah, human beings need to acknowledge their need for a Savior. The presupposition individuals must make is that you can’t save yourself. Without this realization, Christmas is just another holiday as a Savior is not sought out.

As it is written, None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no, not one. 11 No one understands [no one intelligently discerns or comprehends]; no one seeks out God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have gone wrong and have become unprofitable and worthless; no one does right, not even one! – Romans 3:10-12

In the passage above, the apostle Paul drives this point home to members of the church at Rome. Referencing an Old Testament prophet, Paul explains that no one is perfect. No matter how highly you may regard yourself, every day, week, month and year people stray from God’s law. Regardless of what disciplines, focus and safeguards are put into place, sooner or later you will break, cut corners or deviate from commands in the Bible.

For the wages which sin pays is death, but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through (in union with) Jesus Christ our Lord, Romans 6:23.

The best way I know to unwrap the theology of Christmas is through an illustration I learned from Evangelism Explosion. The passage above is part of a diagram using the Grand Canyon. Human beings are on one side of the canyon and God is on the other side. However, Jesus is offered as a free gift, dying on a cross to save mankind from sin. Those who accept the gift of eternal life through a personal relationship with God have access to cross this canyon by faith. This invisible bridge is in the shape of a cross. The moment Jesus was born, salvation and eternal life was made possible, 1 John 5:13. May these words sink in as Christmas Day approaches.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming Futile Thoughts

Futile is defined as a pointless effort, occurring when individuals are incapable of producing any useful result. Synonyms include fruitless, ineffective, of no use, vain and worthless. After reading the passage below, I began to wonder, what causes sharp minds to become dull and futile?

Because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and godless in their thinking [with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations] and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves], Romans 1:21-22.

A letter written to the church of Galatia illuminates how thoughts become futile. The apostle Paul uses the expression clear and obvious when referencing fleshly acts and practices in Galatians 5:19. A list of these ungodly acts follow in verses 20-21. At the end of these traits, Paul suggests that those who live according to their sinful nature will not inherit eternal life, sliding further and further away from God with each indulgence.

If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit,] Galatians 5:25.

So if you find yourself in this unfortunate state, how do you reverse this trend? Where do you turn or what can be done to become fruitful and useful once again? At the end of Galatians 5, Paul introduces the concept of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. Instead of gratifying sinful desires, obedience to the fruits of the Holy Spirit brings life. As soon as Christians understand their obligation to God’s Spirit, Romans 8:13, futile thoughts can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t easy, but can be done with prayer and fasting along the way.

by Jay Mankus

On or Off?

When you enter a room at night, it’s pretty obvious whether or not a light switch has been turned on.  When I drive home in the dark from work at 4:30 in the morning, other cars and streets lights point me in the right direction.  Yet, as the sun rises, open windows may provide as much light as a ceiling fan or lamp.  Determining if a light switch has been turned on or off during the day is not as clear as the sun replaces man made lights.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste (purpose), how can it be made salty? It is no longer good for anything, but to be thrown out and walked on by people [when the walkways are wet and slippery], Matthew 5:13.

This same concept applies to faith.  On Sunday’s, turning on Jesus is natural as believers enter their local house of God.  Yet, after this service is over or as a hectic work week begins, turning off my faith has become a common occurrence.  The light of others has blinded me from my own lame state, stuck in a casual faith, turning it on and off when I want.  Whether I like it or not, I have enabled my sinful nature to block, interfere and stunt my own spiritual growth.

“You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven, Matthew 5:14-16.

This on and off analogy came to me last night during an interaction with a co-worker.  While getting a cup of ice water, I glanced up at the score of the Little League World Series game that was on in our break room.  As I turned to leave, an associate approached with a condensed gospel presentation.  After his two minute spiel, I told him I am already a believer, briefly sharing about my writing ministry.  Yet, as I went back to work, this encounter consumed my soul with conviction.  It’s time that I stop turning on and off my faith.  Instead, I need keep the light of Christ in the on position so I don’t blend in or disappear in the dark.

by Jay Mankus

Is Being Devout Good Enough?

If you have been to a funeral recently, eulogies tend to focus on the good that an individual has done over the course of their life.  Despite flaws, imperfections and weaknesses, positive qualities are highlighted to give friends and family members hope that their loved one has entered the gates of heaven.  This makes me wonder is being devout good enough?

Now at Caesarea [Maritima] there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who, along with all his household, feared God. He made many charitable donations to the Jewish people, and prayed to God always, Acts 10:1-2.

In the passage above, Luke introduces a highly respected individual.  Despite his lack of Jewish upbringing, Cornelius earned a reputation of being God fearing.  This holy reverence inspired a cheerful heart to give and fueled a desire to pray to God daily.  Perhaps, this character makes Cornelius an ideal candidate to become the first Gentile to receive the good news about Jesus Christ.

This Jesus is the stone which was despised and rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief Cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among people by which we must be saved [for God has provided the world no alternative for salvation],” Acts 4:11-12.

Earlier in the book of Acts, Luke makes it clear that being devout is not good enough.  There is only one door, one way that leads to eternal life, faith in Jesus Christ.  God found favor in Cornelius, using a series of events that led to a meeting with Peter.  During Peter’s message within a house in Caesarea, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening.  Immediately, following Peter’s mini-sermon, Cornelius and his family were baptized.  If you want the eternal security mentioned in 1 John 5:13, place your trust in Jesus to seal the deal, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Scaring Children to Death

In a recent episode of Big Little Lies, second grade students are warned about Global Warming.  This lecture was so terrifying for one student that she tried to escape, hiding in a closet.  After this little girl was discovered, she was taken to a doctor to shine light on her condition.  Apparently, this second grade girl was scared to death, suffering a panic attack from the doom and gloom message presented in class.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction, Proverbs 1:7.

According to King Solomon, fear is not always a bad thing.  While fear results in anxiety, distress and worry, being scared opens hearts and minds up to the afterlife.  According to Solomon, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  The problem with global warming is that those who often sound the alarm, aren’t practicing what they preach, being good stewards of God’s creation.  Thus, scaring children to death isn’t offering hope or focusing on life after earth.

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death,” Revelation 21:6-8.

In the final chapter of the Bible, there is good and bad news.  To those who endure end times by staying true to God will be rewarded with eternal life.  However, John introduces the concept of the second death which should scare any adult or children.  Those who fear God will become open to eternity and spiritual teaching.  Desperation breeds a sense of urgency, searching for answers to the meaning of life.  Therefore, while scaring children to death may continue, I pray that future warnings will include the promise of eternal security, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

An Important Message from the Past

 

The first Great Awakening, a series of Christian revivals began in England during the 1730’s.  This spiritual movement quickly spread to Britain’s thirteen colonies lasting until the 1740’s.  During these two decades, Jonathan Edwards played an integral role as a preacher, theologian and writer in America.  One of Edwards’ lasting legacies is a quote from an old sermon, “you contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”

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; Ephesians 2:8.

As individuals struggled with the notion that you can earn your salvation through good works, Jonathon Edwards uses the teaching of the apostle Paul to stop this train of thought.  Perhaps, members of the church of Ephesus shared a similar belief.  The passage above is part of a letter Paul wrote to expose this flawed mindset.  Salvation is a gift from God, only accessible by grace through faith in Christ.  This verse inspired Jonathan Edwards’ comment that mankind’s only contribution to salvation are transgressions from the past and present.

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]. 10 For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us], Ephesians 2:9-10.

To fully understand the apostles’ teaching, you have to look to verse 10.  Human beings are merely a piece to the puzzle, a work in progress.  As the Holy Spirit works behind the scenes to sanctify newly converted Christians, this process takes a lifetime to complete.  Meanwhile, God the Father serves as a potter, molding and fashioning followers of Jesus like clay.  Trials and tribulations serve as a furnace to remove our imperfections.  Instead of trying to earn your salvation, Paul urges readers to become a willing participant, eager to fulfill the good works God has prepared for you  in advance to accomplish in life.  This is an important message from the past to remember.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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