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Abiding in Love

There are three common Greek words that appear in the New Testament of the Bible. Eros is a romantic and sensual form of love. Phillia refers to a brotherly love in the context of friends and family. Agape is God’s unconditional love that offers grace, forgiveness, and mercy to undeserving human beings. Yet, in a letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul refers to charity as the greatest spiritual force in 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin, 1 John 2:10.

Romans 6:23 is known as the Gift Illustration in Evangelism Explosion. There are three ways that people respond to a gift. The first is to accept this as your own by taking it home with you. The second is to receive a gift only to return this or regift it at a later time. Finally, the bitter will reject someone’s offer and leave without it. To abide in love refers to accepting, conforming to, and following the source of love who is Jesus.

But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations], 1 John 1:7.

One of Jesus’ former disciples provides a check list to see whether you are abiding in God’s love. John uses light and darkness as a way to evaluate your own current life. Those who abide in Jesus display fruits of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23. Yet, if these fruits are overshadowed by acts of the sinful nature, Galatians 5:19-21, you’re likely abiding in darkness. Like Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35, you will know Christians by their love. Therefore, abide in God’s love so that any darkness in life will quickly fade.

by Jay Mankus

Growing in the Grace of God

I was introduced to the concept of God’s grace as a new Christian by an acronym. God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense provides a visual image that has stuck with me over the years. The apostle Paul also summarizes God’s grace in one verse of the Bible, Romans 5:8. “While we were sinning, God demonstrated His love for all human beings by sending Jesus to die for our sins.” To acknowledge this is one thing, but to grow in the grace of God shows an appreciation and reverence to the Lord.

But grow in grace (undeserved favor, spiritual strength) and [h]recognition and knowledge and understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (the Messiah). To Him [be] glory (honor, majesty, and splendor) both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (so be it)! – 2 Peter 3:18

Whenever you receive a gift that was deserved, you may feel bad or want to repay this individual with something in exchange. Yet, according to one of Jesus’ disciples, there is nothing that you can do to reimburse God. This unmerited favor is a free gift described by the apostle Paul in Romans 6:23. Some people accept this as their own, others put it on a shelf to collect dust while the bitter reject God’s offer. Growing in God’s grace is a way of thanking God for this everlasting gift, Luke 19:10.

For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved ([c]delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself,] Ephesians 2:8-9.

The apostle Paul makes a plea to anyone who thinks that they can earn their salvation. The above passage seeks to confront this flawed mindset. Salvation is a free gift not based upon works. Part of accepting this as your own involves receiving God’s grace through faith. At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus provides advice of how you can grow in God’s grace, Matthew 6:14-15. Forgiveness in conditional based upon how you forgive others. Therefore, growing in God’s grace means loving and forgiving those who trespass against you. As you pour out grace to others, God will flood your life with grace.

by Jay Mankus

The Reason to Forgive

Everyone has been burned, disappointed with or hurt by a close friend. Whether this was due to betrayal, growing apart or temptation bought on by human nature, there is no one righteous, not even one, Romans 3:9-12. When the shoe is on the other foot and you are the guilty one, remember the principle you reap what you sow. When you add this to Jesus’ teaching in the passage below, this is the reason to forgive.

And lead (bring) us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. 14 For if you forgive people their trespasses [their [g]reckless and willful sins, [h]leaving them, letting them go, and [i]giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their [j]reckless and willful sins, [k]leaving them, letting them go, and [l]giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses, Matthew 6:13-15.

As a child, forgiveness is a daily ordeal. Someone hurts your feelings, said something mean to you or as you get older, breaks your heart. If the words of Jeremiah 17:9 are any indication, life is filled with anguish, frustration, and pain. This is where children learn the hard way that it’s better to forgive rather than holding a grudge. The sooner you mend fences with friends, the better you’ll feel. Unfortunately, stubbornness often blocks the path toward peace.

Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and [e]disregards the offenses of others], 1 Peter 4:8.

The words of the passage above might have been conceived in John 21:15-17. Peter is confronted by Jesus following his public denial. This conversation serves as a form of reconciliation as Jesus forgives Peter for his past sin. While the Lord’s Prayer is a basic prayer children learned in Sunday School classes, this is a great aid for forgiveness. As you reflect upon the past day, week, month or year, forgive those who have trespassed against you. If you want God to forgive you, this is the reason to forgive others.

by Jay Mankus

Oh What a Feeling

Beginning in Junior High, music became an integral part of my life. I was there when MTV debuted in August of 1981, going over a friends house every day after school to watch Behind the Music. This was well before Reality Television caused music to become an afterthought on MTV. One of the songs ingrained in my mind is What a Feeling by Irene Cara. Cara’s song went on to become the theme song for the film Flashdance in 1983. When high school began for me, music filled me with an adrenaline rush each time I pressed the play button on my Walkman.

He then goes on to say, And their sins and their lawbreaking I will remember no more. 18 Now where there is absolute remission (forgiveness and cancellation of the penalty) of these [sins and lawbreaking], there is no longer any offering made to atone for sin, Hebrews 10:17-18.

The Bible talks about a different kind of feeling. This particular one is based upon the overwhelming sense of being forgiven. The author of Hebrews provides a reason to celebrate. Jesus was the missing link, the perfect lamb of God who serves as an eternal Great High Priest. While guilt and shame will still continue to haunt souls, there is absolute remission of past and present sins. Yet, Hebrews 10:26-27 does offer a cause for concern. Apparently, some first century Christians were taking God’s grace and mercy for granted. So don’t let the exhilarating feeling of forgiveness spoil your faith with an on again, off again mentality.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us, Psalm 103:11-12.

The Old Testament provides an analogy that reminds me of Irene Cara’s song. When the degree of God’s forgiveness is compared to infinity, this news makes me want to leap into the air and proclaim, “oh what a feeling!” From a human perspective, this concept is hard to comprehend. Yet, if God forgives and forgets our sins as far as the east is from the west, this fact should result in a greater appreciation. Whatever genre of music that you prefer, the next time that you feel overwhelmed by addiction or bad habits, turn up the volume so that you can celebrate God’s grace and mercy.

by Jay Mankus

On Spiritual Life Support

Most adults have a scale that they step on and off every day. Based upon the weight that is revealed will dictate how much you eat and the amount of exercise that you engage in today. When you’re lighter than expected, individuals begin to feel a sense of accomplishment. However, when your scale unveils an extra five pounds that you just gained, an overwhelming spirit of conviction and shame may put your soul on spiritual life support.

And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat the fruit from the trees of the garden, Except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. But the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die, For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil and blessing and calamity, Genesis 3:2-5.

According to Web MD, the human body is a complex machine with organs and systems constantly at work. When crucial internal functions begin to fail, human beings may have to be hooked up to a device to keep a body alive until it’s normal functions are restored. While life support machines were commonly used for those suffering from severe brain trauma, struggling Coronavirus patients were placed on a ventilator to help them breathe.

Now these things befell them by way of a figure [as an example and warning to us]; they were written to admonish and fit us for right action by good instruction, we in whose days the ages have reached their climax (their consummation and concluding period). 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands [who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm], take heed lest he fall [into sin]. 13 For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not [b]adjusted and [c]adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to [d]a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently, 1 Corinthians 10:11-13.

Christians who end up on spiritual life support get to this point by following in the footsteps of Adam and Eve. As soon as individuals begin to question in their minds “did God really say,” trouble is in your future. Embracing this mindset opens the door for justification and the rationalization of sin. Instead of searching for ways to escape temptation, I’ve experienced that vicious cycle where I prayed for forgiveness before indulging my flesh. If you have ever reached this state, reflect on the passage above so that you can begin to turn your faith around.

by Jay Mankus

A Critical Time for Grace

One of the earliest references to someone being “canceled” occurred on a VH1 Reality show back in 2014. One of the cast members of Love and Hip Hop: New York kick started what Americans now refer to as Cancel Culture. Cisco Rosado used the expression “you’re cancelled” to his girl friend Diamond Strawberry at the time. In the 7 years that have followed, beliefs, opinions and political ideologies are under attack, outed by social media daily.

Three times I called upon the Lord and besought [Him] about this and begged that it might depart from me; But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! – 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

The Cancel Culture has become like a feeding frenzy, looking for a reason to eliminate and silence anyone who is unwilling to conform to a secular worldview. As active members of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter diligently search for offensive posts and words, these miserable individuals will stop at nothing to get their way. These control freaks don’t appear to be letting up as any mistake, slip up or verbal misstep is magnified daily.

For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself,] Ephesians 2:8-9.

Subsequently, this is a critical time for grace. Rather than continue down this road of condemnation and finger pointing, forgiveness must find to a way to restore sanity. As the Cancel Culture begins to ruin, smear and take down their own, perhaps a spirit of common sense is emerging. Nonetheless, you can’t sustain peace until God’s grace provides second chances to change for the better. May this blog remind the masses of God’s riches at Christ’s expense.

by Jay Mankus

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

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