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Tag Archives: Gentiles

All Those Who Were Listening

While Billy Joel refers to honesty as such a lonely word in his 1979 song, teachers often feel the same way about listening.  As a former high school teacher who spent a decade standing in front of teenagers, rarely did I grab the attention of an entire class.  This became apparent during each chapter review prior to the next text as only a handful of students were prepared.  At some point during my lectures, these informed students were attentive, able to concentrate or kept an open ear to what I was presenting.  While uniformed students may cram their way toward a good grade, all those who are consistently listening receive blessings from God.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who were listening to the message [confirming God’s acceptance of Gentiles]. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, Acts 10:44-45.

While interviewing Peter about an encounter with Gentiles, Luke narrows in on the power of listening.  Based upon Peter’s recollection of this day, not everyone in the audience was listening to his sermon.  This became obvious when those talking in the back or whispering on the side did not receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Whether the words above are a direct quote from Peter or an observation made by Luke the author, “the Holy Spirit only fell on those who were listening.”  While not mentioned, the rest of the crowd sat around dumbfounded, likely disappointed that they missed this blessing from God.

For all the prophets and the Law prophesied up until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is [the fulfillment of] Elijah [as the messenger] who was to come [before the kingdom]. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear and heed My words, Matthew 11:13-15.

When John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod, a delegation of John’s disciples was sent to Jesus to make sense of his earthly ministry.  John’s disciples wanted to know if Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah.  Thus, as these men approached Jesus, they hung on every spoken word.  Following a tribute to John the Baptist, Jesus ends his comments with a plea to listen.  Based upon the quote above, there are two types of listening: casual and responsive.  Jesus doesn’t want people to nod in agreement.  Rather, God desires followers of Christ to become doers of the Word by putting Jesus’ advice into action.  Blessings will bestowed upon all those who are attentively listening.

by Jay Mankus

Back to the Way Things Were

The Wizard of Oz is an American classic, airing annually on several networks.  While the characters on screen became bigger than life, the symbolism behind this film still exists.  The Wizard of Oz is compared to the United States government, promising the world, but rarely upholding their end of the bargain.  Thus, whether its health care, jobs or social security, many individuals are being let down, disappointed by politician after politician.

But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers, Acts 14:2.

Today, the media is trying to protect the great wizard of Oz, poisoning the minds of Americans who dare to question those in power.  Like the character on film hiding behind the veiled curtain, cameras are trying to convey a different picture than reality.  Assaulting the character of individuals, demonizing their beliefs and portraying an exaggerated point of view is all part of the daily charade known of liberal talking points.  However, America is still waiting for the next Dorothy to expose those hiding behind this facade.

Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them, Acts 14:15.

During the first century, Paul and Barnabas tried to enlighten the Jews about God.  Fearful of these men, religious leaders began to spread lies, hoping to keep members of their synagogues from converting to Christianity.  Unfortunately, these practices still exist as jealousy is causing modern leaders to confuse those on the verge of conversion.  Perhaps, this is why Paul encouraged his followers to test everything, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 so that minds don’t become poisoned by false and inaccurate teaching.  Now that Christmas is over don’t go back to way things were.  Rather, embrace the promise of Emmanuel, God with us, so that the circumstances of life doesn’t bring you down.

by Jay Mankus

Standing in the Way of Progress

Cantankerous, inflexible and pertinacious are words associated with stubborn.  Depending upon which study you reference, individuals become set in their ways between age 16 to 25.  Whether students choose to pursue college or stop their education following high school, worldviews are often set by the early twenties.  Subsequently, when a new way of thinking is introduced, many are caught standing in the way of progress.

So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way? – Acts 11:17

Unfortunately, I grew up during the infant phase of computers, forced to take typing classes in high school.  Thus, as technology changes electronics annually, its hard for me to keep up, lagging behind as I adjust to updated programs.  Part of me wants to keep the status quo, doing tasks the way I am accustom to.  Yet, if I don’t face reality I may find myself standing in the way of progress.

When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life,” Acts 11:18.

During the first century, Peter struggled to adapt to the societal advances.  Raised as a Jew, Peter was taught to avoid associating with Gentiles.  However, as the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his family, Peter was faced with a dilemma.  Hold on to past stereotypes or embrace the movement of God?  In the end, Peter realized that if he did not accept Gentile converts to Christianity he would be standing in the way of progress.  In the same manner today, as the world drastically changes, ask the Lord to give you the heart of Christ to avoid standing in the way of spiritual progress.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Just say No… Go Against the Flow

Richard Evans was the pioneer of the slogan “just say no” as a Social Psychology professor at the University of Houston in the 1970’s.  Supported by the National Institutes of Health, this concept was geared at attacking substance abuse inspired by Woodstock that cultivated a generation of sex, drugs and rock and roll.  By the 1980’s, first lady Nancy Reagan added premarital sex and violence to this slogan, becoming a champion of the just say no movement.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of the first century, one man blazed a new trail, going against the flow like no one ever before or since.  Similar to America’s Civil War, Samaritans occupied northern Israel with Judah dwelling in the South.  Following captivity by the Assyrians and Babylonians, Samaritans embraced foreign gods as well as intermarrying Gentiles.  Subsequently, when Jewish leaders made plans to reunite both kingdoms, the Samaritans did everything in their power to undermine this attempt.  Bitterness, hatred and tension carried over for 500 years until Jesus arrived onto the scene.

In John 4, the disciples avoided Samaria like the plague, taking the belt way around town.  However, Jesus didn’t let peer pressure ruin God’s will, going against the flow to wait for a Samaritan in need.  Despite committing social suicide, Jesus begins a conversation with an adulterous woman at a well.  Led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus takes a casual talk into the spiritual realm.  Before the day is over, this carpenter leads several individuals to place their trust in God.  If you just say no to the world, by going against the flow, who knows how many lives you can alter for eternity?  The world is waiting for you, Matthew 9:37, to lead be example.  Please share how you’re making a difference.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Memorial Day Offering

Like a feud between siblings, the origin of the first Memorial Day celebration is clouded by history, with over 25 American cities taking credit.  The initial holiday was coined Decoration Day, based upon a 1867 hymn Kneel Where Our Loves Are Sleeping.  Inspired by the end of the Civil War, ladies of the South decorated the graves of dead confederate soldiers.  Although president Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966, the debate continues today as several cities had spontaneous celebrations back in the 1860’s.

Acts 10:4 introduces another memorial day, one with a spiritual background.  Legalism within the Jewish faith had exploded by the first century, creating social barriers between Jews, Gentiles and half-Jews due to inter marriage.  Like a leper, outcast by society, Gentiles were not initially accepted by the 12 apostles, who focused on reaching all the Jews within Jerusalem, Acts 1:8.  However, the persecution led by Saul caused early church leaders to shift directions in Acts 8:1-4 toward believers located in Judea and Samaria.  When the time had arrived, the prayers of a Gentile named Cornelius were answered.

An angel of the Lord came to Cornelius in a vision one afternoon, Acts 10:3.  While silent for years, God brings him great news.  Cornelius’ prayers and gifts to the poor have not been overlooked, brought to light in a memorial offering.  The final touch is communicated to Peter in a vision found in Acts 10:9-16.  This occurred so that legalism of Jewish Christians would be broken, lifted to welcome any Gentile into the kingdom of God.  Since Jesus died once and for all for all sin, 1 Peter 3:18, as a memorial offering for mankind, God’s goal was to eliminate cliches, factions and social barriers within the church, Colossians 2:20-23.  In view of this, don’t let holiday shopping, weather or worldly ways keep you from offering up a Memorial Day prayer!

by Jay Mankus

Free Falling

Tom Petty’s 1989 song Free Fallin’ refers to a boy who broke up with a decent girl, breaking her heart.  As a result, a sense of guilt leads Petty toward a downward spiral, free falling into a state of depression.   On the surface, many are great at hiding their pain, trying to stay cool or avoid unwanted attention.  Yet, deep inside the average soul, hurt is accumulating day by day, searching for someone or something to elevate this weight.

In Acts 11:1-3, a similar burden was lifted from the church, opening the heavens for a spiritual free fall.  Up until this point, Jewish law prohibited anyone in this faith to associate with Gentiles, especially partaking in unclean food according to Leviticus 11.  However, angelic intervention, 2 visions and a message from God redefined a Jews perspective of impurity, Acts 11:8-10.  Everything changed in Acts 11:15 as the Holy Spirit, fell upon the Gentiles in Caesarea.

According to the apostle Paul, God allows this to happen periodically, as He determines, 1 Corinthians 12:11.  This spiritual free fall is for the common good of the church, 1 Corinthians 12:6, occurring throughout the book of Acts 2:4, 4:31, 10:44-46 and so on.  Unfortunately, seminary’s, the school which trains future pastor’s, disagree with the book of Acts, claiming this was a momentary, supernatural out pouring of the Spirit, no longer active, ceasing to exist.  This notion has caused many in the church to free fall, questioning the existence of God.

While I don’t have the answer or power to end this thousand year old debate, I do want to prevent future believers from free falling from the faith.  If God can part a sea in the Old Testament and cause a dead man to rise from the grave after 3 days in the New Testament, why can’t the Holy Spirit free fall today to commence another spiritual awakening?  Although, prayers shouldn’t treat God like someone going to a check out counter, Matthew 21:21-22 promises great things to those who believe.  If you follow in the footsteps of George Whitfield, you might just experience another spiritual free fall.

by Jay Mankus

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