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The Author and the Giver of Peace

One Old Testament prophet gave the future Messiah a nickname. According to Isaiah 9:6, Jesus will become the Prince of Peace. The author of Hebrews takes this concept one step further claiming that Jesus is also the author of peace. All of you have do is recall the words of Jesus while hanging on a cross for a crime he didn’t commit. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, Luke 23:34.”

Now may the God of peace [Who is the Author and the Giver of peace], Who brought again from among the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood [that sealed, ratified] the everlasting agreement (covenant, testament), Hebrews 13:20.

The author of Hebrews refers to Jesus as a Great High Priest. The reason for this title serves as symbolism as a perfect lamb sacrificed for the sins of mankind. One of Jesus’ own disciples refers to a new Christian as part of a royal priesthood thanks to the shedding of Jesus’ blood and resurrection 3 days later, 1 Peter 2:9. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul points to Jesus’ willingness to lay down his life for sinners, Romans 5:8.

Strengthen (complete, perfect) and make you what you ought to be and equip you with everything good that you may carry out His will; [while He Himself] works in you and accomplishes that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ (the Messiah); to Whom be the glory forever and ever (to the ages of the ages). Amen (so be it), Hebrews 13:21.

This is the spiritual pedigree that elevates Jesus up as the author and giver of peace. The only question is why aren’t followers of Jesus today displaying and offering peace to others? Have we forgotten our calling to love our neighbors as ourselves? Or have the worries of this world bruised and battered our souls? Wherever are you in life, may this blog inspire you to pass on the peace of Christ in 2022.

by Jay Mankus

Reproofs and Consequences

The term “Reprove” comes from Elizabethan English. The biblical definition of reproof has a variety of meanings depending upon the context. A reproof could refer to convince, disprove, rebuke or reject. In many cases, reproofs occur when a spiritual leader catches a believer doing or saying something that is out of character. While most churches have become too lenient on Christians living outside of church, a reproof is designed to correct wrong behavior.

To keep you from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a loose woman. 25 Lust not after her beauty in your heart, neither let her capture you with her eyelids. 26 For on account of a harlot a man is brought to a piece of bread, and the adulteress stalks and snares [as with a hook] the precious life [of a man], Proverbs 6:24-26.

While God promises to forgive those who repent, the consequences for any sin remains. In the passage above, King Solomon uses the example of a lonely man who seeks to fulfill his sexual desires with a one night stand. However, whenever two individuals participate in a sexual encounter, soul ties are developed and last long after this one excursion. Like any type of addiction or bad habit, inner cravings continue to grow via temptation until you are lured into another comprising position, James 1:13-15.

Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, doing evil in His sight? You have slain Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife. You have murdered him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because [you have not only despised My command, but] you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. 11 Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your [a]own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun, [Fulfilled in II Sam. 16:21, 22.] 2 Samuel 12:9-12.

No one is exempt from the consequences of sin, even if you are a man or woman after God’s own heart. In the passage above, the prophet Samuel shares the penalty for David’s act of adultery and murder. Unfortunately, David got a taste of the expression “what comes around goes around.” Reaping the seeds of sin, David’s family and life became a living nightmare. May the consequences of sin strike a nerve in your heart so that you’ll learn quickly from the next reproof that you receive.

by Jay Mankus

A Simple Confession Can Change the World

The word confession is found six times in the Kings James Version of the Bible. Confession is the act of acceptance, taking responsibility for a wrong act, behavior or deed. This public acknowledgement owns up to something that you’re embarrassed to admit. Fueled by conviction and guilt, a simple confession by a young man inside a church in Great Britain sparked the first Great Awakening.

Beloved, do not put faith in every spirit, but prove (test) the spirits to discover whether they proceed from God; for many false prophets have gone forth into the world. By this you may know (perceive and recognize) the Spirit of God: every spirit which acknowledges and confesses [the fact] that Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [actually] has become man and has come in the flesh is of God [has God for its source]; 1 John 4:1-2.

According to one of Jesus’ disciples, genuine confession is a direct sign of God’s presence working inside a human heart. As a member of Jesus’ inner circle, John witnessed love in action for three straight years. When most of his follower’s abandoned him on the first Good Friday, Jesus replied, “forgive them for they know not what they do,” Luke 23:34. These remarks followed by Jesus’ resurrection changed the world forever.

And the prayer [that is] of faith will save him who is sick, and the Lord will restore him; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working], James 5:15-16.

In the passage above, one of Jesus’ earthly brother’s chimes in as well. According to first century historians, James did not believe his own brother was the Messiah until Jesus rose from the death. Haunted by his own unbelief, James pours out his heart about the importance of confession. Two thousands years later, the earth has gone through a series of changes. Yet, one thing endures: a simple confession can still change the world.

by Jay Mankus

Lowering the Bar or Extending God’s Grace?

As a former Catholic, you can tell a lot about the direction of a church based it’s leadership.  Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, is now calling for priests to forgive any woman who has terminated a pregnancy.  During a recent interview on cable news, a member of a local archdiocese summarized this theological change.  In the past, female Catholics who had an abortion were excommunicated from the church, viewing this act of killing an innocent life.  Today, Pope Francis wants to focus on love and forgiveness by extending grace to those who have fallen short of God’s glory.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

When I heard excerpts of this interview, I wasn’t sure what to think.  However, now that I have had time to digest this new stance, there are two possible explanations.  First, the church is lowering the bar by altering the expectations of what it means to be a modern day Christian.  Just as public education has changed the standards for a passing grade, clergy is now more accepting.  As godliness diminishes within society it’s hard to find willing servants of Jesus.  Thus, many churches are being forced to overlook past transgressions to fill half empty buildings and worship services.

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace, Romans 11:6.

The other logical explanation is a shift from an Old Testament view of God’s wrath and judgment toward a New Testament approach based upon the love of Jesus.  This theological position points to the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.  God is already working in the lives of the righteous according to Matthew 9:9-13.  It’s the rebellious, lost and those wandering in the dark who need help.  Instead of emphasizing church growth, pastors have become more evangelistic to reach out to a generation of people who have not grown up in the church.  Depending upon your theological beliefs, you may lean toward one of these two positions.  Nonetheless, the church is suppose to be the hands and feet of Christ, like a beacon of light piercing into the darkness of a spiritually dead and dying world.

by Jay Mankus

Forgiveness Opens the Door for Love

One of the barriers standing between forgiveness is stubborn hearts as certain individuals are unable to forgive or forget a previous transgression.  This unwillingness to let go of the pain inflicted shuts the door on the potential for love.  This reluctance sets the stage for bitterness, like an invisible poison that slowly kills relationships.  Unless there is a willingness to let God in to mend and repair fences, reconciliation is merely a dream.

Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I rebuke and discipline [showing them their faults and instructing them]; so be enthusiastic and repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, your sinful behavior—seek God’s will], Revelation 3:19.

In the first three chapters of the book of Revelation, John gives an honest assessment of seven churches.  While a few receive compliments, several are exposed for previous actions, beliefs and deeds.  Despite this list of flaws, John uses an analogy of a door to illustrate free will.  God is willing to offer forgiveness, yet souls must demonstrate an enthusiastic spirit of repentance.  Every day God is like an eager visitor, knocking on the door of your heart, but the Lord waits for your invitation.  There is no forced entry.

Behold, I stand at the door [of the church] and continually knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him (restore him), and he with Me. 21 He who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God], I will grant to him [the privilege] to sit beside Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down beside My Father on His throne, Revelation 3:20-21.

At the end of this passage, God reveals another obstacle in the way of forgiveness.  Overcoming the world involves mindsets, philosophies and traditions that have become embraced by most of society.  This makes following God’s commandments, decrees and precepts that much more difficult.  Peer pressure only complicates any desires to seek God’s ways.  Free will is a daily exercise full of choices with the hope that you stay near enough so that you can hear God’s voice.  For those who fulfill this call, motivation comes as God forgives you.  Thus, as believers pay it forward, forgiveness opens the door for love to flow out of your heart, passed on to others.

by Jay Mankus

 

When Right is Wrong and Wrong is Right

In any social setting, there are preconceived thoughts based upon appearance, attire, background, education, intellect and wealth.  If character is excluded from this set of standards, people can be misled, confusing right from wrong and vice versa.  Like Samuel waiting to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel, the heart is often overlooked.  While David’s brothers fit the physical features of a leader, David’s heart set him apart from his siblings.  Thus, Samuel told Jesse to call his youngest son from the fields, led by the Holy Spirit to anoint David.

Now there was a woman in the city who was [known as] a sinner; and when she found out that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume; 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began wetting His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and [respectfully] kissed His feet [as an act signifying both affection and submission] and anointed them with the perfume, Luke 7:37-38.

Several hundred years later, another famous anointing took place.  Unfortunately, the disciples were fooled by the tarnished reputation of an unwelcomed guest.  To make matters worse, this woman broke and wasted a valuable vial of perfume.  The actual worth of this bottle was equivalent to nearly a years pay for a first century laborer.  This display blinded religious leaders from the true intentions of this woman.  Staring at the spilled perfume as if it was a load of cash blowing in the wind, the man who invited Jesus over to his house is offended by Jesus’ interaction with this prostitute.  Subsequently, in Simon’s eyes right is wrong and wrong is right.

Now when [Simon] the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this Man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him, that she is a [notorious] sinner [an outcast, devoted to sin],” Luke 7:39

Over reactions like Simon are carried out within homes every night in the 21st century.  Instead of seeing things for what they are, preconceived notions blind decent human beings from the truth.  Thus, knee jerk reactions lead to conflict, division and tension within Christian homes.  Perhaps, everyone needs to become more like Jesus, expecting the best in others regardless of past or present reputations.  May this passage of the Bible speak to your soul, opening your heart to forgive, forget and extend God’s grace and mercy to others.  If you don’t, you too may confuse right from wrong and wrong with right.

by Jay Mankus

A Casual Perspective of Grace

Every once in a while I will come across a troubling passage in the Bible.  Separated by a couple of chapters, the author of Hebrews appears to be calling out some Jews who had developed a casual perspective of grace.  Since the culprits are not identified, you can only speculate based upon the context below.  Apparently, some individuals developed a mindset that sinning was okay, especially since God promises to forgive you.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

The problem with this mentality is that justification and rationalization often replaces penance.  The purpose of confession is to express a contrite heart by avoiding making the same mistake you made the day before.  Unfortunately, a casual perspective of grace usually leads to deliberate sin.  Willing participants begin to think, “we’ll if God is gong to forgive me anyway, I might as well enjoy myself.”  Believing this lie from the Devil can corrupt souls.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God, Hebrews 10:26-27.

In case anyone skipped over the author’s initial warning in chapter 6, this message is repeated 4 chapters later.  Sometimes the fear of God serves as a last resort, the only thing holding you back from indulging the sinful nature.  However, anyone who becomes spiritually dead due to an addictive behavior can become numb to change.  Thus, unless a friend, loved one or spiritual mentor intervenes, a casual perspective of grace can lead to eternal separation from God.  If this blog finds you hanging by a thread, reach out for help so that healing and restoration can begin.

by Jay Mankus

Forgiveness is a Lovely Idea Until You Have to Forgive

Happy Days was one of my favorite shows as a child, running for a decade on ABC.  Like any boy, Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham and Henry Winkler, the Fonz, were my two favorite characters.  This show about the life of teenagers at their favorite hangout, Arnolds, captivated my attention.  However, one of the things I remember the most is Fonzie’s inability to say sorry or admit he was wrong as depicted in the attached you tube.

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses,” Mark 11:25.

Not much has changed in the past 25 years since this show went off the air.  Following in the footsteps of Adam and Eve, people prefer to play the blame game rather than take responsibility for wrong actions.  Meanwhile, justification, rationalization or playing the victim card has become normal behavior.  While everyone demands justice when you have been wronged, “forgiveness is a lovely idea until you have to forgive someone else.”  This quote by C.S. Lewis applies today, especially in the context of relationships.

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive, Colossians 3:13.

The apostle Paul calls individuals to bear with one another.  This urging involves patience, a quality that few adults possess.  Thus, forgiveness can get messy, full of emotion, frustration and tears.  Yet, if you want forgiveness to flow back to you, God demands that you forgive others as Jesus forgave you.  Therefore, despite how unpleasant it may be for you to care for, forgive and love, the act of forgiveness is essential toward securing your eternal destiny, Matthew 6:14-15.  May this blog inspire you to emulate Christ as you strive to forgive and forget.

by Jay Mankus

A Brand New Day

If I didn’t put Lamentations at the end of the passage below, these words could have spoken or written by any disgruntled individual today.  Whenever anyone endures a stretch of bad breaks, failure and sadness, it feels as if God is punishing you for some unknown reason.  As a child I attended a church that over emphasized the Old Testament, painting a different picture of God from the New Testament.  Thus, I grew up without a limited perspective of God’s true character and nature, seeing the Lord as a disciplinarian, judge and punisher for those who do evil.

I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.  He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long, Lamentations 3:1-3.

The book of Lamentations has one of the most interesting chapters in the Bible.  The prophet Jeremiah begins by expressing the anguish of his depression.  This remorse continues like a tirade of complaining for twenty verses.  After letting all of his emotions out in the form of recorded words, Jeremiah transitions to the positive.  Despite how bad things may look, Jeremiah recalls a message of hope from the Torah, another name for the first five books of the Bible.  This promise altered his mood, bringing to light that each new day serves as a fresh start on life.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness, Lamentations 3:21-23.

While you can’t reset life like a video game without removing the consequences, altering your attitude is a good place to start.  The hardest part of any complete transformation is learning how to forgive yourself.  This is even more difficult for those who possess a quest for perfection.  While God forgives and forgets, casting your sins as far as the east is from the west, the Devil uses guilt to haunt your mind by bringing up secret scars.  For most of my life, I have fought a losing battle, overlooking God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy, distracted by past failures.  After hearing a song from the group Firefight earlier in the week, I know the course of action I must take; viewing each morning as a Brand New Day.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Go There or Else

There is a new movement emerging from members of the media, seeking to destroy naysayers, opponents and those possessing opposing worldviews.  This rush to judgment ignores the concept of innocent until proven guilty.  Instead of waiting until the facts to come out during a trial, the severity of recent accusations are more than enough to presume guilt.  Where did this mentality come from and what does the Bible say to address this issue?

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities, Psalm 103:10.

According to David, God does not treat human beings as they deserve.  According to Psalm 103:12, God’s love is infinite, “as far as the east is from the west.”  If God is willing to show forgiveness, grace and mercy to undeserving sinners, why is the mainstream media so quick to condemn.  Have the elite been offended by conservatives in the past?  Is this recent response some sort of pay back for previous hypocritical actions?  Whatever the reason, sometimes you have to use common sense by replying, “don’t go there.”

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times, Matthew 18:21-22.

There was an unspoken belief that forgiveness should be limited in the first century.  Sensing a good opportunity to address this topic, Jesus shares the parable of the Unmerciful Servant.  Attempting to shatter any stereotypes on forgiveness, Jesus illustrates God’s mercy on those who are unable to pay back earthly debts accrued over time.  God the Father bestows grace on those who beg for mercy.  Yet, lip service is disregarded unless individuals reciprocate mercy by doing to others as you want others to do unto you.  In other words, don’t go there or else.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins, Matthew 6:14-15.

The or else part of this equation was addressed by Jesus earlier in the book of Matthew.  At the conclusion of the portion of Scripture known as the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father, Jesus emphasizes the conditional aspect of forgiveness.  Yes, I did say conditional, based upon how you treat other people.  In next chapter, Matthew 7 builds upon this concept proclaiming, ” the measure to which you judge others will be used against you.”  Therefore, despite whatever differences you may have against others, make sure your remember to live out the Golden Rule.  Don’t seek revenge or the grace of God will turn it’s back on you.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

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