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The Best Day of Your Life

Desirable, excellent, and the preeminent quality are words used to describe best. Yet, in every crowd, there is a skeptic,  an individual inclined to question and or doubt all accepted opinions. Thus, what you consider to be the best day of your life, another spectator sees things differently. Unless you exhibit emotion and passion, overflowing to everyone in attendance, others won’t be motivated to celebrate with you.

And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way. Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me, John 14:4-6.

After introducing the concept of eternal life to his disciples, a doubting Thomas isn’t convinced. This news should have been life altering, but one unbelieving soul brought down the entire group. In an instant, Jesus changed the momentum, revealing a spiritual truth. Jesus is the answer to Thomas’ concern, the way to conquer fear and prevail over death. Making a decision to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior could be the best day of your life.

Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart believe (adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Christ) and so is justified (declared righteous, acceptable to God), and with the mouth he confesses (declares openly and speaks out freely his faith) and confirms [his] salvation. 11 The Scripture says, No man who believes in Him [who adheres to, relies on, and trusts in Him] will [ever] be put to shame or be disappointed, Romans 10:9-11.

If you had to rank your best 10 days on earth, the birth of child, a wedding day, or a life altering promotion will likely make this list. However, news of friends making a decision to follow Jesus are some of the most memorable days of my life. Obtaining and reaching life long goals has been satisfying, but the greatest news that any parent hears is the sound of their children dedicating their lives to Jesus Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Filling Up Your Cup to the Brim

In this age of calorie counting and weight watching, favorite drinks vary. Whether it’s alcoholic beverages, energy drinks, specialty coffees or a glass of water, the amount of calories will dictate what you decide and how many you will drink. Depending upon how well your New Year Resolutions are going so far, good choices and self-control will shape your beverage of choice. Yet, the Bible refers to filling up a different kind of cup.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over, Psalm 23:5.

The context of the passage above refers to what David as a shepherd had to do daily to meet the needs of his sheep. Since sheep don’t eat or drink when they are stressed, oil is applied by shepherds to each sheep, serving as a bug repellent. Once sheep feel safe and comfortably, water containers are filled to the brim, overflowing so that their noses don’t get stuck. Like a glass of milk before going to bed, drinking this water was the last thing sheep did before falling asleep for David.

Jesus answered her, All who drink of this water will be thirsty again. 14 But whoever takes a drink of the water that I will give him shall never, no never, be thirsty any more. But the water that I will give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling) [continually] within him unto (into, for) eternal life, John 4:13-14.

In a conversation with a Samaritan woman, Jesus brings up the concept of living water. On a hot summer day, in the middle of a desert, a drink of water is refreshing. However, Jesus is talking about eternal life, a living water that will extend far beyond your life on earth. To individuals who enter a personal relationship with Jesus, John 14:6, reading the Bible is like filling your spiritual cup up to the brim, Psalm 1:3. If you want to experience the abundant life, John 10:10, take time daily to drink God’s Word.

by Jay Mankus

The Process of Discovery

Discovery is the action of finding, learning, and unearthing information. When a specific topic peaks an interest, individuals often go through an exploratory phase. This initial process of discovery either quenches your thirst, fuels a greater passion or overwhelms souls with the amount of knowledge necessary to continue this pursuit. At the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, a Pharisee named Nicodemus requested a with meeting at night, likely afraid that his peers would make fun of him for seeking the advice from this controversial Rabbi.

Then Nicodemus, who came to Jesus before at night and was one of them, asked, 51 Does our Law convict a man without giving him a hearing and finding out what he has done? 52 They answered him, Are you too from Galilee? Search [the Scriptures yourself], and you will see that no prophet comes (will rise to prominence) from Galilee, John 7:50-52.

Apparently, the concept of becoming born again struck a nerve within Nicodemus, John 3:1-17. Then again, maybe Jesus’ comments on eternal life, John 3:16-17, might have sparked additional interest. While John does not highlight what persuaded Nicodemus to begin his spiritual process of discovery, two different updates are provided by this gospel author. While the chief priests and Pharisees sent guards to arrest Jesus, Nicodemus sticks up for Jesus by reminding his peers the Law requires a man to have a hearing before being convicted.

And Nicodemus also, who first had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, [weighing] about a hundred pounds. 40 So they took Jesus’ body and bound it in linen cloths with the spices (aromatics), as is the Jews’ customary way to prepare for burial.41 Now there was a garden in the place where He was crucified, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever [yet] been laid, John 19:39-41.

The repetition of his initial conversation with Jesus reminds readers of the progress that Nicodemus has made. Starting out as a curious religious leader, afraid of what other Pharisees might think, Nicodemus publicly defends Jesus and then comes back to pay respect following Jesus’ death. If you read between the lines of John’s gospel, Nicodemus’ process of discovery led to eternal life, Romans 10:9-10. When 11 of 12 disciples abandoned Jesus in the final hours of his life, Nicodemus was no longer ashamed or afraid of what others thought. May you fulfill a similar process of discovery by drawing near to God, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

When the Perishable Puts on the Imperishable

The expression “Living on Borrowed Time” originated in England during the 17th century. The Old Style Calendar the English followed belonged to April. Thus, it was common for individuals to describe the first eleven days of May as borrowed days. Depending upon your age, you may be living on borrowed time now, but what Jesus did on a cross at Golgotha can alter your future.

And when this perishable puts on the imperishable and this that was capable of dying puts on freedom from death, then shall be fulfilled the Scripture that says, Death is swallowed up (utterly vanquished forever) in and unto victory, 1 Corinthians 15:54.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul describes the spiritual significance of Jesus’ death on the cross. Prior to His crucifixion, Jews were forced to follow Old Testament law and practices to be forgiven. However, Hebrews 4:14-15 describe Jesus as the Great High Priest who became a living sacrifice. After Jesus conquered death by rising 3 days later, the perishable, human bodies, are now able to put on the imperishable, Jesus Christ.

[Thus you were circumcised when] you were buried with Him in [your] baptism, in which you were also raised with Him [to a new life] through [your] faith in the working of God [as displayed] when He raised Him up from the dead. 13 And you who were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh (your sensuality, your sinful carnal nature), [God] brought to life together with [Christ], having [freely] forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 Having cancelled and blotted out and wiped away the handwriting of the note (bond) with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us (hostile to us). This [note with its regulations, decrees, and demands] He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to [His] cross, Colossians 2:12-14.

In a separate letter to the Church at Colosse, the apostle Paul explains in detail how Jesus’ death and resurrection disarmed Jewish law. The passage above highlights Jesus’ spiritual accomplishment. Instead of being forced to live according to the motto, “living on borrowed time,” Jesus opened the door to eternal life. In a private conversation with disciples, Jesus reveals that He is going away to prepare a place for you in heaven, John 14:2-4. When this was completed, the perishable can now put on the imperishable.

by Jay Mankus

Memorializing Christ

The Bible claims that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith, Hebrews 12:2,  The author of Hebrews attempts to explain how the Old Testament applies to Jesus who shed his blood as a form of propitiation.  The apostle Paul builds upon this by saying Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross, 1 Corinthians 15:53-57.  While Memorial Day weekend comes once a year, we should memorialize Christ’s victory daily as Jesus disarmed the powers and the authorities which stood oppose to human beings, Colossians 2:15.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life, Leviticus 17:11.

In the original Webster’s Dictionary, the word authority does not exist by itself.  Rather, the term authority is found under the definition for author.  The root of authority comes from the term authorship meaning origination or creation.  After being expelled from heaven, Lucifer tried to obtain the earthly authority given to Adam and Eve by God using deception.  When his plan began to change Eve’s mind, Adam didn’t stop her.  In response to the fall, Jesus was sent as the second Adam, Romans 5:12-21, to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10.

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, Hebrews 9:22.

The science of God, theology, can be confusing.  Sometimes it takes time to digest complex passages in the Bible.  Instead of getting bogged down, I try to simplify things so I do not forget what the Lord has done.  According to Romans 3, we all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory.  The wages for this fall is an unfortunate payment, death, Romans 6:23a.  However, the reason why we should memorialize Christ is at the end of Romans 6:23b.  “For the gift of God is eternal life, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

by Jay Mankus

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

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