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The Canceling of Our Shortcomings

One of the core messages of the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ, is the spiritual reality of God’s grace. Acronyms of grace often describe this as God’s riches at Christ’s expense. God’s activity toward human beings rains down forgiveness, repentance, regeneration, and salvation from heaven. This unmerited favor from God serves as a spiritual do over to those who enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11.

[So that we might be] to the praise and the commendation of His glorious grace (favor and mercy), which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor, Ephesians 1:6-7.

In the beginning of his letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul unravels God’s grace. Grace is lavished upon the children of God in the form of love. Instead of condemning transgressions, the blood Jesus shed as the perfect lamb of God has redeemed guilty sinners. Romans 5:8 clearly describes the spiritual significance of Jesus’ act of love; “But God shows and clearly proves His love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Which He lavished upon us in every kind of wisdom and understanding (practical insight and prudence), Ephesians 1:8.

King David prophesized about this spiritual reality in Psalm 103:12. As far as the east is from the west refers to God’s infinite love. In other words, God’s love is equivalent to infinity. When you add everything together, the canceling of our shortcomings is made complete. Luke 2:10 describes Jesus’ birth as good tidings of great joy. Perhaps Luke was exhibiting forward thinking, knowing that the promised Messiah of the Old Testament would soon cancel our shortcomings.

by Jay Mankus

Times of Refreshment

While refreshments are often a light snack or drink purchased at a convenience store, times of refreshment are good for the mind. These brief moments in time tend to invigorate souls, serving as a form of revitalization. Whether this is accomplished by taking a day off of work or during an extended vacation, restoring mental and physical strength is good for your body.

So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We [as Christ’s personal representatives] beg you for His sake to lay hold of the divine favor [now offered you] and be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness], 2 Corinthians 5:20-21.

The spiritual term for times of refreshment is revival. When lost souls stumble upon truths in the Bible, some promises seem too good to be true. Take the passage above as Paul provides an illustration in regards to sin. Because Jesus became the perfect lamb, living, dying and rising from the dead, when God sees you, your sin is replaced by the righteousness of Christ. This is the great news of the gospel, John 3:16-17, a time to celebrate.

I am writing to you, little children, because for His name’s sake your sins are forgiven [pardoned through His name and on account of confessing His name], 1 John 2:12.

One of Jesus’ disciples writes about this spiritual refreshment. Just as the president of the United States has the authority to pardon people convicted of past crimes, becoming a Christian gives you a spiritual pardon via God’s grace. However, like a traveler on a busy interstate, you have to get off on the Repentance Exit, Romans 5:8. Forgiveness is the process of making a u-turn away from sin, back toward God. May this blog serve as a time of refreshment and praise as you contemplate the fact that Jesus has pardoned all of your sins.

by Jay Mankus

Christmas is a Time for Second Chances

The retail calendar is an endless cycle, constantly moving from one celebration to the next. As soon as Halloween festivities end, stores are transformed into a winter wonderland overnight. Meanwhile, on television a month of horror flicks are replaced with movies about joy, thanksgiving, and praise. When Thanksgiving Dinner’s wind down, Christmas shopping comes to life or should I say ignite. Whether you wait in lines or do most of your purchases online, consumerism doesn’t overshadow the fact that Christmas is a time for second chances.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go into the kingdom of heaven. 25 When the disciples heard this, they were utterly puzzled (astonished, bewildered), saying, Who then can be saved [from eternal death]? – Matthew 19:24-25

During a first century conversation, the 12 disciples became deflated following a parable shared by Jesus. The point of Jesus’ analogy was to illustrate that individuals aren’t good, holy or strong enough to save themselves. Attempting to be some sort of superhuman Christian, the disciples became depressed, painfully aware of their limitations. As despair began to set in, Jesus’ words served as a swing in momentum, “anything is possible with God.” Yes, even those of you who need a second chance this Christmas.

But Jesus looked at them and said, With men this is impossible, but all things are possible with God, Matthew 19:26.

George Bailey, played by James Stewart, needed a visit from an angel to notice just how wonderful his life was. A ruthless TV-network chief played by Bill Murray in Scrooged needed to witness his own death to realize what was truly important in his own life. As you sit down at some point this Christmas to watch one of the classics films, the Lord wants to remind you that forgiveness, grace and mercy is available every day, Lamentations 3:31-25. For Christmas is the season of second chances, a fresh start and a new beginning in life. Seize this opportunity to begin again with God, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Cancelling Your Debts This Christmas

Most Americans are currently in debt, owing more money than what they have or make. According to a recent survey, 81.5% of millennials, 80.9% of baby boomers, and 79.9% of Gen Xers possess some sort of outstanding debt. To make matters worse, guilt will drive many to buy Christmas presents that they can’t afford as an act of love. However, going into greater financial ruin just to impress your children, family members or significant other isn’t worth it. Instead of waiting for New Years to start a list of resolutions, it’s time to cancel your debts this Christmas.

Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a human king who wished to settle accounts with his attendants.24 When he began the accounting, one was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents [probably about $10,000,000], 25 And because he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and his children and everything that he possessed, and payment to be made, Matthew 18:23-25.

In the passage above and below, Jesus begins the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. Using the amount of the debt above based upon the income from a first century worker, this man would have had to work more than 100 years to pay this off which wasn’t possible. Recognizing the dire condition of his servant’s debt, the master took pity by cancelling the entire amount. Similar to the modern expression “Pay it Forward,” the man who had his debt forgiven, failed to practice the same mercy when someone owed him money. Unfortunately, this world is full of individuals who say the right thing, but rarely practice what they preach.

So the attendant fell on his knees, begging him, Have patience with me and I will pay you everything. 27 And his master’s heart was moved with compassion, and he released him and forgave him [cancelling] the debt, Matthew 18:26-27.

As the weight of buying presents this Christmas begins to burden your soul, think of creative ways to display your love and affection. The artists and creative may be inspired to make gifts rather than purchase them. Others may be compelled to downsize their number of gifts to one per family member or institute a secret Santa for a group so only one large gift needs to be bought. Whatever you decide, the sooner you get your finances in order, the quicker you’ll be able to find peace this Christmas. In the context of forgiveness, make sure you follow the example of the master in the parable above so that past trespasses against you will be cancelled for good this Christmas, Matthew 6:14-15.

by Jay Mankus

Letting Go of Your Past … One Article at a Time

Every year Americans clean out their closets, dust off belongings in their attics and go through old boxes set aside in the corner of a vacant room. Inside each of these containers lie relics of the past. From my own personal experience, it’s hard to let go of favorite pieces from my past. Despite being faded, warn out, and a little small, nostalgia has prevented me from letting go of the memories associated with these clothes.

Then Peter came up to Him and said, Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? [As many as] up to seven times? 22 Jesus answered him, I tell you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven! – Matthew 18:21-22

When it comes to forgiveness, everyone has a pre-conceived notion about the right amount. During a conversation with Jesus, Peter shares his opinion. Instead of adopting a three strikes and you’re out policy, Peter feels that everyone should get seven do overs, one per day. Taking this well beyond Peter’s answer, Jesus suggests that forgiveness should be an unlimited number. Yet, when you are the one who has been afflicted, hurt, and wronged, letting go of any transgression is just as difficult, if not more.

Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind). 32 And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you, Ephesians 4:31-32.

Apparently, the apostle Paul addresses questions about forgiveness in a letter to Ephesus. Paul goes into details about how not letting go of past transgressions affects your soul. As this spiritual baggage builds up, bitterness spreads. This is where the 70 x 7 equation comes into play. If God forgives you as far as the east is from the west, Psalm 103:12, this infinite amount of grace should inspire you to forgive others in a similar manner. Therefore, when you are able to let go of your past, you can begin to love others as Christ loves the church.

by Jay Mankus

Civil Disobedience?

In the past few years, criminal justice reform has changed how law makers view crime. New legislation introduced by California no longer prosecutes individuals who shop lift items under one thousand dollars. This decision has created a loop hole that appears to encourage civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is the active refusal of a citizen to obey certain laws, demands, orders or commands of a government.

So they brought them and set them before the council (Sanhedrin). And the high priest examined them by questioning, 28 Saying, We definitely commanded and strictly charged you not to teach in or about this Name; yet here you have flooded Jerusalem with your doctrine and you intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us, Acts 5:27-28.

During the first century, followers of Jesus needed to comply with Roman and religious regulations. The Sanhedrin served as the supreme Jewish legislative and judicial court. The context of the passage above finds that disciples were preaching and teaching Jesus as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. This was in conflict with the council’s beliefs. Thus, the disciples were warned to stop publicly teaching the gospel message.

Then Peter and the apostles replied, We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, Whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree (cross). 31 God exalted Him to His right hand to be Prince and Leader and Savior and Deliverer and Preserver, in order to grant repentance to Israel and to bestow forgiveness and release from sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these things, and the Holy Spirit is also, Whom God has bestowed on those who obey Him, Acts 5:29-32.

Instead of backing down to comply with religious leaders, the apostles take a stand. When man made rules go around the teachings of the Bible, Peter explains why civil disobedience is necessary on this occasion. Instead of abandoning their convictions, the apostles stayed true to their beliefs. When you fast forward to later in the first century, many of Jesus’ disciples were willing to die rather than deny their faith. This is the moral dilemma that exists when you decide to exercise civil disobedience like the New Jersey owners of Atilis Gym.

by Jay Mankus

How to Overcome a Common Flaw

The origin of the phrase ‘Ignorance is bliss’ can be traced back to an English poet. Thomas Gray’s Ode was composed in 1742, reminiscing about his schooldays at Eton College. While knowledge is power, students who graduate from college often develop a superiority complex. When adults who think they know everything re-enter society as so called experts, there is a danger that these individuals will forget the common flaw that all human beings share.

Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives, Romans 3:23.

The apostle Paul addresses this flaw in a letter to the church at Rome. Back in Romans 3:10, Paul quotes the Old Testament. This passage clearly states that there is no one righteous, not even one in a trillion. This flaw prevents the driven, disciplined and focused from honoring and glorifying God daily. This sinful nature is within our DNA. Subsequently, as embryos are conceived, no one can escape this imperfection.

[All] are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favor and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus, 25 Whom God put forward [before the eyes of all] as a mercy seat and propitiation by His blood [the cleansing and life-giving sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation, to be received] through faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over and ignored former sins without punishment, Romans 3:24-25.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul explains how faith can help overcome this flaw. While God’s grace is unmerited, redemption is possible by placing your faith in Jesus Christ. This acknowledgement is based upon the fact that Jesus was the perfect lamb, free from sin, who was crucified on a cross, died, buried and rose from the dead. Just as God passed over the homes of Jews during the first Passover in Egypt who marked their doors with blood, God will forgive sinners who trust in Jesus. Romans 10:9-11 provides a prayer to help anyone overcome their sinful nature.

by Jay Mankus

Pray Like You Mean It

Sike was a common expression used while I was in high school. “Sike” is a slang used to exclaim that are messing with someone. On numerous occasions either a friend or myself would get serious for a moment. A couple of my friends were even able to fake a tear only to cancel what was just said by saying, “sike.” Following a slight hesitation of silence, laughter often followed. Looking back, I wonder if this is how God feels when you pray fervently for a miracle, only to fall back into old sinful habits.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me, Psalm 51:1-3.

According to an Old Testament prophet, a shepherd boy named David possessed a special quality, 1 Samuel 16:7. This trait was hidden until David began to pray. Samuel eludes to this gift as a heart after God. To have a heart after the heart of God implies if one admits their sin by repenting, their heart will be cleaned and purified like the heart of God. The words of the passage above were inspired when David’s affair with Bathsheba was exposed by Nathan. Overwhelmed by guilt, David is not messing around.

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.

Unfortunately, many first century Christians treated prayer like a “Get Out of Jail Free Card” from Monopoly. Instead of turning away from sin, those on the verge of giving into temptation used pray as a source of forgiveness. This mindset was perverted, rationalizing that the more you sinned, the more God’s grace was poured out upon you. The author of Hebrews corrects this ungodly belief in the passage above. Continuing in a downward free fall without repenting of sin is like ending a prayer with sike instead of Amen. In view of this, start praying like you mean it.

by Jay Mankus

The Tears of Lady Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. The metal framework of this landmark was built by Gustave Eiffel. This gift from France was dedicated on October 28, 1886. Three years later, Eiffel completed his own masterpiece in Paris, France. Unfortunately, the first symbol of the Statue of Liberty has been forgotten. Initially, the purpose of this erection of Lady Liberty served as a seal of the friendship between France and the United States. At her feet is a broken chain of slavery designed as a symbol of freedom. Meanwhile, The inscription on the tablet she is holding contains JULY IV MDCCLXXVI, the day of the Declaration of Independence for the United States.

In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off], Galatians 5:1.

Between 1886 and 1924, nearly 14 million immigrants entered the United States through the New York Bay on their way to Ellis Island. The Statue of Liberty was a reassuring sign that achieving the American dream was now a possibility for new arrivals. Ellis Island became the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station for 62 years from 1892 until 1954. To those entering this body of water at night, the uplifted torch of Lady Liberty was a welcoming sign and was meant to enlighten those who passed by. As the 250th anniversary draws near, revisionist historians are quickly disposing of America’s rich history. A day doesn’t go by without news of another statue removed or threatened from a downtown area. If this trend continues, there will be nothing left to remind citizens of America’s past mistakes and victories.

For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another. 14 For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself, Galatians 5:13-14.

While the tears of Lady Liberty continue to fall as America goes through an identity crisis, the Bible provides hope for the hopeless. In a letter to the church at Galatia, the apostle Paul reminds individuals of this region that Jesus came to liberate sinners. Instead of being held captive by addiction, God wants everyone to experience spiritual freedom. Yet, bad habits have a way of ensnaring souls, similar to a yoke of slavery. Whenever you allow your sinful nature to get out of hand, reigning in your flesh can take months or years to regain control. Thus, if you are looking for a glimmer of hope, love is the answer. Paul references the golden rule, “loving your neighbor as yourself.” This reminder can be traced back to the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus reveals love is conditional. If you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you, Matthew 6:14-15. May your own acts of love inspired by the Holy Spirit turn Lady Liberty’s frown into a smile.

by Jay Mankus

What Do I Need to Drop?

Since churches have been closed due to the Coronavirus back in March, I’ve picked up a couple of bad habits. After spending an entire decade at one church and school, the past 10 years have been difficult. Although my current work schedule hasn’t helped, being a spiritual nomad without a church to call home has left me feeling empty. As churches in our area slowly reopen, it’s time for me to drop the excuses for not getting involved.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? – Matthew 5:43-46

One of my greatest offenses is a carefree faith that isn’t that much different than anyone else. Instead of being set apart like the Salt of the Earth and Light of the World, I’m no holier than a pagan. This spiritual slide has led me to harbor bitterness, hold on to grudges and forget to forgive others as Christ forgave me. Rather than carry these burdens with me another day, it’s time to drop this bad habit at the foot of the cross.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one. 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins, Matthew 6:12-15.

The apostle provides a blue print in Colossians 3 for those who feel compelled and convicted to drop bad habits. this process begins with a change of heart and mind, Colossians 3:1-4. The second step isn’t as easy, regaining control of a flesh that have gone wild, Colossians 3:5-9. If this doesn’t do the trick, there is always the warning above, forgiveness is conditional based upon how you forgive others. Before your soul becomes too far gone, drop whatever is preventing you from being reconciled with God and others.

by Jay Mankus

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