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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

Grace Comes First

After sin entered the world following the fall of Adam and Eve, grace was merely a promise.  To restore that which was lost, God revealed the law to Moses, a series of standards, regulations and rules to abide by.  Animal sacrifices served as a temporary means to obtain forgiveness.  This grueling pattern continued until Jesus arrived early in the first century.  One of the many lessons Jesus taught audiences during his three year ministry is that grace comes first.

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace, Romans 6:14.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul hints about his own internal battle with sin.  Paul chooses the term dominion, referring to the struggle that exists prior to accepting, believing and trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Those who attempt to be good without a personal relationship with God continue to live under the Old Testament law today.  Thus, the concept that grace comes first is still foreign to those without faith.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast, Ephesians 2:8-9.

As the apostle Paul matured spiritually, he began to educate new believers on the power of grace.  As a former religious zealot, Paul’s former attempts to be perfect fell well short of God’s glory.  Thus, Paul became an advocate of grace, encouraging others to avoid basing your salvation on works alone.  Grace is a gift from God, aided by faith in Jesus.  May you come to the same conclusion today that grace comes first.

by Jay Mankus

Losing Sight of God’s Glory

Attention, concentration and emphasis are words associated with focus.  These synonyms highlight the priority for those individuals who hone in on what’s important in life.  Depending upon your age, hobbies and interests, time will be allocated and invested in specific areas.  However, discipline, resolve and zeal are necessary traits to make your goals a reality.  Nonetheless, human nature has a subtle way of distracting good intentions.  The end result often leads to losing sight of God’s glory.

And David was dancing before the Lord with great enthusiasm, and David was wearing a linen ephod [a priest’s upper garment], 2 Samuel 6:14.

Prior to achieving fame by defeating the giant Philistine Goliath in battle, David was a skilled musician and shepherd.  The Old Testament does not reveal whether or not David combined these two abilities.  However, to stay sharp, I can see David practicing his harp at night, using a camp fire as a source for light.  As a former saxophone player, there is an adrenaline rush from playing moving songs.  Perhaps, this might explain the inspiration behind dancing, moving your body to the beat of music.  Beside performing for King Saul, David was also known to dance with enthusiasm, at one point dancing naked before the ark of the covenant.  Yet, five chapters later, seeing a beautiful woman bathing caused David to lose sight of God’s glory.

Let everything that has breath and every breath of life praise the LordPraise the Lord! (Hallelujah!) – Psalm 150:6

Romans 3:9-12 addresses mankind’s inability to avoid sin.  At some point, everyone screws up, falling prey to temporary pleasures.  As great as David’s act of adultery and murder detailed in 2 Samuel 11 may be, there is a way to regain your focus back toward glorifying God.  If you pray for a new heart, seeking to become a man or woman after God’s own heart, your spiritual vision will be renewed.  I have wasted years on earth trying to do what I want, to make a name for myself.  This selfish venture has blinded me from my real purpose for existing, Psalm 150:6.  Instead of waking up with the attitude what will God do for me today, there is a better alternative.  Start each day with a verse, a song and prayer to praise the Lord.  This is why you and I were born.  Therefore, don’t let the sun go down before practicing praise and worship of the great I Am.

by Jay Mankus


Don’t Make a Big Deal About It

In this current age of social media, immediate reactions and thoughts are often broadcast to the world to read.  However, now with the recent addition of Facebook Live, individuals can stream video live that is unfiltered.  When some try to attain 15 seconds of fame like the 4 teenagers in Chicago, that which was meant for good can be corrupted by an axis of evil.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings, Proverbs 25:2.

During times of uncertainty, people tend to seek out advice, guidance or wisdom to figure out what to do next.  2 Kings 18-20 details the reign of Hezekiah, the king of Judah.  Described as one of the godliest leaders in the Bible, Hezekiah wasn’t satisfied with the pieces of the Old Testament he had access to, seeking out previous writings of Solomon.  One of the suggestions Hezekiah discovered was when something occurs, try not to make a big deal about this.

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense, Proverbs 19:11.

To extract what Solomon means by the phrase “conceal a matter,” you have to go back a few chapters to understand the true meaning.  Based upon the context of chapter 19, the intent refers to avoid over-reacting.  In the heat of the moment, human nature tempts people to retaliate.  Yet, those who practice self-control by restraining your emotions, it is to God’s glory.

by Jay Mankus

No More Excuses

As a parent, it doesn’t take long for children to figure you out.  Ideally, you should be an example, positive and a role model.  Yet, when you have a bad day, start to fall away from God or have a weak moment you can’t run and hide.  You have to face the truth, a sinner who has fallen short of God’s glory.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst, 1 Timothy 1:15.

The apostle Paul is one of those unlikely individuals the Lord calls out of darkness into the light to do great things for God.  Yet, despite his successful earthly ministry, mentoring of young pastors like Timothy and many miracles performed, Paul was haunted by his past.  Whether it was his guilt of giving the order to have the apostle Stephen killed or persecuting Christians prior to his conversion, Paul recognized the error of his former ways.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them, James 4:17.

Sure, Paul could have blamed his upbringing as a Jewish zealot.  Yet, like other followers of Christ the conviction of the Holy Spirit exposes human imperfections.  Other believers, pastors or words of the Bible make this point painfully clear.  There are no more excuses, rational explanations or scapegoats.  Rather, sins of inaction are just as guilty as those who commit harmful acts.  Therefore, don’t run from the truth, accept it as a prodigal child in desperate need of God’s grace and mercy.

by Jay Mankus

The Final Word

The French expression Je suis fini when translated into English means I am finished.  However, from a contextual point of view, this translation is flawed.  In reality, when someone says Je suis fini, its their final word before dying, done with life.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven, Hebrews 1:3.

In the Bible, a similar analogy exists.  Whenever Jesus referred to sitting down, its symbolic of completion, a final resting place.  Thus, when you read the words Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father, this means that Jesus completed God’s plan and will for his life.

But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom, Hebrews 1:8.

Today, human nature encourages some to fight for the last word, always wanting to get in one last comment.  While many individuals join in this daily game, there is only One who came claim to have made the final word.  After struggling to hold on to life for several hours on a cross, Jesus let go by saying, “it is finished!”  Yet, his final statement, the resurrection sealed the deal, opening the gates of heaven to those who believe.  May the community of faith take hope in the promise of salvation and eternal life, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Afflictions Eclipsed by Glory

Usually, I have a tendency to ask God, “why me” when troubles arise.  Yet, as I was worshiping the Lord in song this morning, I received a brief reply.  Like a snap shot or vision, my afflictions of the past and present occur so that these trials can be eclipsed by God’s glory.

The first major affliction I endured arrived on graduation day, when one of my best friends from high school was diagnosed with cancer.  When her cancer went into remission 1 year later, I breathed a deep sigh of relief until it returned to take Maureen’s life abruptly.  Without experiencing this hardship, I probably would have become a golf course architect, my concentration in college, instead of entering youth ministry.

My second malady was self inflicted, on a golf course while attempting to earn my players card to become a certified P.G.A. professional.  I hit 26 out of 36 greens in regulation, 22 out of 28 fairways and played the hardest hole 1 under par through 2 rounds.  Somewhere in the spiritual realm, strange acts of nature kept by ball from going in the hole, especially when I 3 and 4 putted the same hole, missing my card by 2 shots.  Yet, this epic failure prompted me to become a high school Bible teacher for a decade.

Finally, losing my teaching position in 2012 was a tough blow to my confidence and ego.  However, from the ashes of despair, God carried me until I was ready for my next assignment.  As I start this new adventure on Tuesday with Amazon, I don’t know what the future holds.  Nonetheless, whether, good, bad or indifferent, any afflictions I suffer will surely be eclipsed by God’s glory.

by Jay Mankus


Here We Go Again

In a recent blog, I referenced Abram as the mastermind behind the first indecent proposal.  Genesis 12:15 suggests Sarai was taken to be the wife of Pharaoh.  This was such a bad idea that just 4 chapters later in Genesis 16:1-2, Sarai requests a role reversal.  Whenever individuals rely on their own logic instead of God’s guidance, they start sliding down the slippery slope of sin.  So here we go again, committing the same act as before.

One of the things I have learned from being married nearly 20 years is sometimes woman want to verbalize their feelings.  Upon hearing their spouse, men on the other hand, want to fix or problem solve.  Therefore, when Sarai shares her idea with Abram, you can make an assumption that she is simply clearing the air about how she felt when forced to wed Pharaoh.  Instead of further discussing this matter, Abram appears too willing to volunteer, jumping into action.  Like modern premarital arrangements, couples often take the plunge without contemplating how compromise affects the human soul.  God said, “let the two become one” Genesis 2:24, not uniting three with one.  The apostle Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 in case anyone forgot about Hagar.

God initially made life on earth easy with only one rule to adhere to, Genesis 2:16-17.  However, Eve got curious, Adam fell asleep on the job and neither took responsibility for their decision.  Here we go again as mankind continues to relive the same mistakes of the past.  In the game of life, all God truly desires is obedience, but Satan in Genesis 3:1 plants a seed of doubt within the human mind, “did God really say that?”  Each time you fall short of God’s glory, Romans 3:23, it’s like Adam or Eve in the garden all over again.  Don’t pull a Hagar by quickly giving into temptation.  Rather, watch out for any harmful cycle or sinful pattern that may currently exist.  If you’re not careful, you might be the next one to say, “here we go again!”

by Jay Mankus

Bent But Not Broken

From a biblical perspective, bent refers to someone who goes off in a different direction, beyond the boundaries set by the Word of God.  Instead of staying on the straight and narrow, individuals stray onto the interstates of life, Matthew 7:13.  As a result, minds become bent out of shape, leaving crooked choices and twisted thoughts along this road.

Fortunately, God has left a map for the lost in the form of the Bible.  This summary of history helps individuals learn from past mistakes that Israel and other followers made, 1 Corinthians 10:1-6.  Like an addict on the road to recovery, being straightened out can be a long and grueling ordeal.  Psalm 106:43 recounts how Israel was bent on rebellion despite being delivered by God time after time.

The first step toward revitalization is acknowledging your sin, James 5:16.  Once you reach this point, the Psalmist urges believers to cry out to the Lord, Psalm 106:44-45.  While all fall short of God’s glory, Romans 3:23, Jesus was sent to die on our behalf, settling the debt we had accrued.  Thus, despite being bent further than you initially planned, God’s promises have kept people from complete brokenness, Psalm 34:18.  Where there is a will, there is a way back to the narrow path, Matthew 7:14.

by Jay Mankus

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