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Tag Archives: forgiveness

What’s Best for You and Me

As a recovering perfectionist, I tend to look at a glass half empty. This tendency to be negative often results in beating myself up inside. While I can forgive others for committing transgressions against me, forgiving myself is another story. This process may take days, weeks or months to get over a stupid blunder, error or mistake. Whenever anyone is too hard on themselves, Satan uses this vulnerability to steal your joy for life.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows), John 10:10.

While using an analogy of a shepherd tending his sheep, Jesus illuminates the dangers that sheep face while on earth. According to John 10:6, the crowd was initially confused so Jesus spoke in clearer terms. This is the context of the passage above as Jesus reveals how Satan seeks to steal, kill and destroy souls. Although this spiritual truth may elicit fear upon receiving this news, you have to know what your enemy will attempt to do to avoid becoming the next victim.

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need, Ephesians 4:28.

One of the songs from their 2009 album Breaking the Silence, The Letter Black sings about what’s best for you and me. The lyrics of Best of Me focuses on an individual who is haunted by their past. The author suggests that the only thing keeping us alive breathing is the knowledge of God’s existence. Entering into a personal relationship with Jesus provides meaning and purpose for life as new converts seek to ascertain God’s will. As minds are renewed by the Bible, Romans 12:1-2, what’s best for you and me is using your own God given gifts and talents to serve the Lord on earth.

by Jay Mankus

From the Power of Satan to God

The documents that comment and expand upon the Mishnah, Hebrew for repeating, is considered the first book of rabbinic law. This collection is known as the Talmud, published approximately around 200 AD. The Talmud is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and primary source of Jewish religious law and theology. This book refers to Jesus as the Great Magician based upon the teaching of Pharisees in Matthew 12:24. This is the first reference of the power of Satan being confused with God.

You are of your father, the devil, and it is your will to practice the lusts and gratify the desires [which are characteristic] of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a falsehood, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar [himself] and the father of lies and of all that is false, John 8:44.

Like any great debater, Jesus exposes first century religious leaders with one simple question. “And if Satan drives out Satan, he has become divided against himself and disunified; how then will his kingdom last or continue to stand?-Matthew 12:26″ After being accused of performing exorcisms, healings and miracles with the help of Beelzebub, the prince of demons, Jesus quickly pokes holes in their theory. Despite silencing his critics, the label of being a Great Magician stuck as an earthly nickname.

To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may thus receive forgiveness and release from their sins and a place and portion among those who are consecrated and purified by faith in Me, Acts 26:18.

While speaking to a courtroom full of Jewish religious leaders, Paul briefly confesses that his love for Jewish laws, traditions and theology resulted in spiritual blindness. Unable to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah, Paul believed that he was living in darkness, under the power of Satan. While confronting scribes and Pharisees in John 8, Jesus unveils Satan as the father of all lies. When you are on the other side, this reality is unclear. However, when you open the door to forgiveness, the power of Satan is loosened as the power of the Holy Spirit takes over. May you too discover this freedom while transitioning from the power of Satan to God.

by Jay Mankus

You Had Me at Hello

The expression “You had me at hello” comes from a classic scene from the 1996 film Jerry Maguire. The context of this saying by Renee Zellweger to Tom Cruise who plays Jerry Maguire begins early in this movie. Renee plays a little known secretary, Dorothy Boyd, observing from a distance the man who built a high powered sports agency firm where she works. When Cruise develops a conscience after talking to one of his client’s sons, this inspires a new mission statement. Unfortunately, this new philosophy results in Jerry’s firing. Upon his departure, Dorothy is the only employee who is willing to quit her job, joining Cruise to start a new sports agency. This loyalty causes Jerry to marry Dorothy before debt and failure results in their separation. When this failed business venture finally has it’s first break through, Cruise has no one to share this great news with. Thus, Jerry finds himself in the middle of a room filled with divorced women, hoping that he can salvage his marriage.

So he went and forced himself on one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He would have gladly eaten the [carob] pods that the pigs were eating [but they could not satisfy his hunger], and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he [finally] came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough food, while I am dying here of hunger! – Luke 15:15-17

The Bible has it’s own version of you had me at hello. During a series of three parables, Luke illustrates how these analogies by Jesus illustrate how heaven celebrates individuals who turn back to God. The parable of Lost Sheep reveal how God searches after sheep, lost souls that go astray. The parable of the Lost Coin suggests that angels in heaven celebrate each time people make a U-turn back to God by repenting. The most famous example follows a younger brother who deserts his family, squandering his inheritance on wild living. When his money runs out, this prodigal is forced to become a slave at a pig farm, longing to eat the pods fed to the herd. From God’s perspective, when wayward souls come to their senses begging for forgiveness and mercy, the Lord embraces you at hello.

I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] treat me like one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him, Luke 15:18-20.

No matter how far people stray from God today, it’s never too late to say hello. The prophet Jeremiah is often referred to as the weeping prophet. When the Lord continues to urge you to tell Israel of bad news, it’s hard to remain positive. Yet, while writing the Book of Lamentations, Jeremiah provides a glimpse of hope. Lamentations 3:19-24 contains the subtitle Hope in Relief of God’s Mercy. This passage unveils the biblical promise that God’s compassion never fails, new every morning. Therefore, whether this blog finds you in a state like Jerry Maguire, a wandering sheep or a prodigal that has gone over the deep end, the Lord is waiting for you with open arms. Luke’s depiction compares God to a retired senior citizen sitting on his front porch, waiting for his children to visit. As soon as you make that final turn back in the right direction, God the Father runs to meet you half way, welcoming you home.

by Jay Mankus

When You Become the Prodigal

During my final year of college, I joined an accountability group.  The official title of this weekly gathering was a Reunion Group with men whom I met during a Walk to Emmaus Retreat.  This sharing group involved giving a brief summary of your week which included your moment closest to Christ and furthest away from God.  Since we started meeting on Monday nights in the fall, most of this group stuck around to watch Monday Night Football afterwards.  Unfortunately, when I went back home to Cleveland, Ohio over break and the summer, I blended into the world like a chameleon.  Instead of developing into a light for Christ, I regularly walked in darkness like the account of the prodigal son in Luke 15.

“Now a traveler (visitor) came to the rich man, and to avoid taking one from his own flock or herd to prepare [a meal] for the traveler who had come to him, He took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for his guest.” Then David’s anger burned intensely against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die. He shall make restitution for the ewe lamb four times as much [as the lamb was worth], because he did this thing and had no compassion.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you as king over Israel, and I spared you from the hand of Saul, 2 Samuel 12:4-7.

You don’t have to squander your wealth in wild living such as Luke 15:13-15 to become a prodigal.  Rather, idleness, too much free time and a lack of vision can lead a man after God’s own heart into sinful addictions.  Instead of going to work, David took the Spring off, wandering around the roof of his palace until a naked woman got his attention.  Like any curious man, David inquired into the status of this woman, hoping that she was single.  When the answer was no, the power of being king went to David’s head, allowing compromise to imagine the possibilities of just one night with this beautiful woman.  A follower of Jesus describes this state as lust and enticement dragging individuals away from common sense until sin becomes full blown, James 1:13-15.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right and steadfast spirit within me. 11  Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit, Psalm 51:10-12.

After David realized that he was the person in Nathan’s analogy, Psalm 51 becomes a prayer for forgiveness.  Prior to this confession, sin had entangled David within a pit of despair.  Psalm 55:4-5 describes a spirit of conviction and guilt that overwhelms souls when you are revealed as the prodigal.  This narcissistic mindset blinds individuals from seeing the truth, the wayward of selfish decisions.  While David does provide a blueprint for reconciliation, the reality that I have become the prodigal is a tough pill to swallow.  It only took one week of skipping church, sleeping in on Sunday to lead me on the slippery slope that I resid.  Doing the right thing sounds so easy, but the apostle Paul reminds readers of Romans 7 that sin influences you to do what you hate.  Thus, the next time you find yourself like me, shocked to be the prodigal, take these biblical passages to heart so that forgiveness arrives in the morning, Lamentations 3:19-23.

by Jay Mankus

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

God Doesn’t Move… But Many Run Away

The phrase “like father like son” first appeared in 1616, written within a book called Bibliotheca Scholastica Instructissima.  This piece included proverbs collected by an Englishman named Thomas Draxe.  Apparently, this idiom existed in the English language prior to this date, verbally communicated in similar manners or ways.  The point expressed by this saying implies that sons tend to emulate their fathers in action. behavior and word.  The eyes of a young child are watching, copying what they see.

Then the eyes of the two of them were opened [that is, their awareness increased], and they knew that they were naked; and they fastened fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool [afternoon breeze] of the day, so the man and his wife hid and kept themselves hidden from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden, Genesis 3:7-8.

The Bible has another way of explaining like father like son.  The theological term used in the Old Testament is generational sins: weaknesses or tendencies that are handed down to individuals through the generations from parents or members of a family. These sins can involve behavioral patterns and ways of thinking that keep us trapped in the past.  When Adam and Eve broke the only rule in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2:16-17, God didn’t move, but this couple ran, hiding in shame.

Then the Lord passed by in front of him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (faithfulness); keeping mercy and lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; but He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting (avenging) the iniquity (sin, guilt) of the fathers upon the children and the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations [that is, calling the children to account for the sins of their fathers],” Exodus 34:6-7.

When the news that Aaron, his brother, helped the people of Israel create a golden calf, righteous anger led Moses to break the 10 commandments.  After coming back down the mountain, Moses introduces generation sins with the phrase iniquities of the father.  Any violation of God’s moral law is considered an iniquity.  Thus, each time a father strays from the Word of God, setting a bad example for his children, these sinful tendencies are passed down three to four generations.  Isaac learned how to lie from his father Abraham, Jacob’s family was notorious for disguising the truth and Solomon developed an unwholesome obsession with women after his birth from an adulterous affair.

‘Because the Lord was not able to bring these people into the land which He promised to give them, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.’ 17 But now, please, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, saying, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving wickedness and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting (avenging) the wickedness and guilt of the fathers on the children, to the third and fourth generations [that is, calling the children to account for the sins of their fathers],’ Numbers 14:16-18.

Everyone has some sort of tendency to collect or pick what they see on a daily basis.  This subconscious practice shapes who you and I become.  Some may do this to fit in, others to obtain a hobby with a few to merely pass time.  Nonetheless, the scene in the Garden of Eden is replayed daily when conviction leads to guilt and shame.  Instead of drawing near to God, many run away ashamed, embarrassed and haunted by past mistakes.  When any hopes for perfection are shattered, may the grace of God lead you to stick around.  Wait for God’s forgiveness and mercy to be poured out through confession like a cold glass of water on a hot and humid day.

by Jay Mankus

Heaven is Not for Everyone

I am always cautious when I try to tackle an unpopular topic. Yet, whenever I attend a funeral where a member of the clergy assumes or suggests that heaven is for everyone, I cringe. While God is the ultimate judge, a person’s witness typically leaves behind a trail of bread crumbs for friends and family to follow. Depending upon actions, deeds and faith demonstrated, you will find assurance, doubt or uncertainty for the eternal fate of those whom you love.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13-14.

Jesus comments on two passages about heaven. The first focuses on the percentage of individuals that will end up in heaven or hell. The second details a necessary requirement to be forgiven by God. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush, blunt to his audience. You have two choices, follow the narrow path that leads to everlasting life or follow the crowd down the road toward eternal loss.

Then He opened their minds to [help them] understand the Scriptures, 46 and said, “And so it is written, that the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed) would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance [necessary] for forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things, Luke 24:45-48.

One of Jesus’ final words before acsending into heaven focuses on how New Testament Jews can find forgiveness through repentance. Biblical repentance contains two requisites, turn away from evil and turn back toward God. If one of these two steps is skipped, true repentance is not achieved. Thus, if anyone wants to approach death with eternal security, 1 John 5:13, repentance needs to become a daily practice. While I hate to be a Debbie downer, the Bible clearly states heaven is not for everyone.

by Jay Mankus

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