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Tag Archives: God’s grace

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

Forfeiting Your Benefits

Forfeit refers to losing or being deprived of a certain right or privilege. As a former athlete and coach, I was given a victory or two due to another team not being able to field enough players for an official game. Yet, as an intramural coach in college, I was forced to forfeit a few games when a number of my teammates failed to show up on time. The Bible contains a couple of examples where Christians come close to forfeiting the benefits of heaven.

For it is impossible [to restore and bring again to repentance] those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become sharers of the Holy Spirit, And have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come, If they then deviate from the faith and turn away from their allegiance—[it is impossible] to bring them back to repentance, for (because, while, as long as) they nail upon the cross the Son of God afresh [as far as they are concerned] and are holding [Him] up to contempt and shame and public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

The passage above highlights an individual who has become lukewarm. When spiritual passion fades, subtle compromises tend to follow. Since a name is not provided, I’m assuming that more than one first century Christian began to back slide. The author suggests that this fall was partially due to a convoluted view of God’s grace. Instead of showing on contrite heart followed by acts of transformation, many began to abuse and cheapen God’s grace. This passage serves as the first warning to those living on both sides of the spiritual fence.

For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward]. 27 [There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God], Hebrews 10:26-27.

The passage above uses imagery from hell to scare wayward believers back on track. The author suggests that some Christians will just squeak into heaven, barely escaping the flames of hell. While many theologians hold the belief, once saved always saved, these two passages in Hebrews reveal different levels of faith. If one of Jesus’ own disciples, Judas Iscariot, ended up in hell, then don’t get too comfortable on earth. Perhaps, this explains Paul’s words to one of his favorite churches, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Philippians 2:12. When you develop a similar mindset, you won’t have to worry about forfeiting the benefits of heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Celebration and Suffering

News of an expecting birth is worthy of a celebration in the form of baby shower.  After labor ushers into this world a new human being, joy consumes families of this infant.  In the years that follow, there are a series of memorable moments, first steps, first words and first day of school.  As new parents work together to raise children, celebrating is often replaced by suffering.  From childhood to adolescence, life only gets more complicated, especially for first time parents.  At some point, celebration fades away as suffering intensifies.  I don’t mean to be Ebenezer Scrooge, but this is a reality of life.

Now it happened that the poor man died and his spirit was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (paradise); and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades (the realm of the dead), being in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom (paradise), Luke 16:22-23.

After sharing the parable of the unjust manager, Jesus transitions into another parable.  Entitled the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus highlights a reason to celebrate and another to fear.  Using a story about a rich and poor man, Jesus uses a hypothetical scenario to detail what heaven and hell is like.  When Lazarus dies, God rewards this poor man with what Jesus calls paradise.  Meanwhile, a self-centered rich man who cared only about himself was sent to hell.  According to Jesus, hell is a place of eternal suffering, able to see those celebrating above, but unable to do anything to help their agony and pain.  This fact should convict and inspire the living to avoid a similar eternal destiny.

And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in severe agony in this flame,’ Luke 16:24.

In the previous chapter, Luke, a well known first century doctor recalls three parables that illustrate God’s grace, love and mercy.  Whether a possession is lost like a coin or pet, heaven celebrates each time a sinner repents.  Angels are programmed to embrace hearts that confess the error of their way.  Meanwhile, even if you are a prodigal son or daughter who has left your family, God will never abandon you.  These stories have been written to urge souls to surrender your life to follow Jesus.  Although this road is narrow as detailed by Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14, any worldly suffering that you might endure is worth this decision.  Therefore, do not ignore the passage listed above so that your eternal destination will be celebrated at your funeral rather than suffer, not knowing whether you are in heaven or hell.

by Jay Mankus

Simplifying the Process of Growing Old

When an adult explains a new concept to a child, certain things tend to get lost in translation.  Grown ups may be tempted to use big words, trying to impress an athlete or student.  Instead of simplifying the process, arrogance and pride can get in the way, widening this communication gap.  If an audience of kids become dazed and dumbfounded, its time to seek to a higher power, reflecting upon the story telling skills demonstrated by Jesus.

And looking toward His disciples, He began speaking: “Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are you who are poor [in spirit, those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for the kingdom of God is yours [both now and forever], Luke 6:20.

Jesus began his most famous sermon with a common sense approach, the beatitudes.  Instead of looking down on the less fortunate, Jesus used analogies that everyone could understand.  Thus, Jesus encourages individuals to set goals, attitudes that you want to aspire to be. obtain and possess.  Jesus takes negative terms like hungry, poor and weeping, then applies each to a positive spiritual quality.  These phrases give hope to the hopeless, comfort to the broken and joy to the emotionally numb.

Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are you who hunger now [for righteousness, actively seeking right standing with God], for you will be [completely] satisfied. Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are you who weep now [over your sins and repent], for you will laugh [when the burden of sin is lifted], Luke 6:21.

Jesus simplifies the process of growing old by reminding adults of a child like faith.  Before the innocence of youth is lost, kids possess great ambition, dreaming about the person they want to be when they grow out.  As time passes, thoughts change, influenced by the culture of each generation.  Without striving to achieve some of these beatitudes, the complications of life stunt spiritual growth.  Unless you are refreshed by God’s grace, you may become a grumpy old man, frustrated by what might have been.  Nonetheless, if you want to simplify the process of growing old, call out to Jesus so that you can regain a child like faith.

by Jay Mankus

Properly Utilizing God’s Power

Prior to beginning his earthly ministry, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.  Over the next forty days, the Devil began scheming of ways on how to trick Jesus into improperly using God’s power.  The longer Jesus went without food, fasting and praying to spiritually prepare his mind, the more vulnerable his body became.  Thus, in the passage below the Devil tempted Jesus to use God’s power for selfish reasons.  In a game of Truth or Dare, the Devil dared Jesus to show off, calling upon angels to keep him from falling.  Responding with Scripture, Jesus corrects the Devil’s abuse of God’s power.

Then he led Jesus to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle (highest point) of the temple, and said [mockingly] to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written and forever remains written, He will command His angels concerning You to guard and protect You,’ and, they will lift You up on their hands, So that You do not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus replied to him, “It is said [in Scripture], you shall not tempt the Lord your God [to prove Himself to you],’” Luke 4:9-12.

Before gathering a ministry team of disciples, Jesus experienced the best and worst from his fellow Jews.  Upon entering a town, Jesus went to the local synagogue, debating, listening and teaching God fearing Jews.  Jesus quoted the Old Testament, speaking with authority without any education or extensive training.  On one day, Jesus spoke about God’s grace extending to Gentiles, non Jewish believers.  This comment turned the crowd in Nazareth against Jesus, committing heresy in their eyes.  This uprising forced Jesus outside of town to a nearby cliff, as residents attempted to push Jesus off the edge to his death.  On this occasion with his life in danger, Jesus properly utilized God’s power, like a ghost, Jesus passed by the crowds escaping to Capernaum.

As they heard these things [about God’s grace to these two Gentiles], the people in the synagogue were filled with a great rage; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the crest of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to hurl Him down the cliff. 30 But passing [miraculously] through the crowd, He went on His way, Luke 4:28-30.

Today, the debate of properly utilizing God’s power continues.  Should you treat God like a supernatural Santa Claus, praying to the Lord with a long Christmas wish list?  Or should you only ask for things in accordance with God’s will?  Do you take Jesus literally, “ask and you will receive?”  What is a good middle ground, a place to start?  If you use Matthew 7:12 as an outline for prayer, this may clear up any confusion that you currently are struggling to grasp.  Prayer is a three step process, asking, seeking insight to explain unanswered prayers and continue to persist, wrestling with the Lord in prayer.  May this passage guide you to understand how to properly utilize God’s power.

by Jay Mankus

When Right is Wrong and Wrong is Right

In any social setting, there are preconceived thoughts based upon appearance, attire, background, education, intellect and wealth.  If character is excluded from this set of standards, people can be misled, confusing right from wrong and vice versa.  Like Samuel waiting to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel, the heart is often overlooked.  While David’s brothers fit the physical features of a leader, David’s heart set him apart from his siblings.  Thus, Samuel told Jesse to call his youngest son from the fields, led by the Holy Spirit to anoint David.

Now there was a woman in the city who was [known as] a sinner; and when she found out that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume; 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began wetting His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and [respectfully] kissed His feet [as an act signifying both affection and submission] and anointed them with the perfume, Luke 7:37-38.

Several hundred years later, another famous anointing took place.  Unfortunately, the disciples were fooled by the tarnished reputation of an unwelcomed guest.  To make matters worse, this woman broke and wasted a valuable vial of perfume.  The actual worth of this bottle was equivalent to nearly a years pay for a first century laborer.  This display blinded religious leaders from the true intentions of this woman.  Staring at the spilled perfume as if it was a load of cash blowing in the wind, the man who invited Jesus over to his house is offended by Jesus’ interaction with this prostitute.  Subsequently, in Simon’s eyes right is wrong and wrong is right.

Now when [Simon] the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this Man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him, that she is a [notorious] sinner [an outcast, devoted to sin],” Luke 7:39

Over reactions like Simon are carried out within homes every night in the 21st century.  Instead of seeing things for what they are, preconceived notions blind decent human beings from the truth.  Thus, knee jerk reactions lead to conflict, division and tension within Christian homes.  Perhaps, everyone needs to become more like Jesus, expecting the best in others regardless of past or present reputations.  May this passage of the Bible speak to your soul, opening your heart to forgive, forget and extend God’s grace and mercy to others.  If you don’t, you too may confuse right from wrong and wrong with right.

by Jay Mankus

Following in the Footsteps of Judas

As one of my college professors once proclaimed, “If you don’t know history, it is bound to repeat itself with the next generation.”  While reading the passage below, I began to wonder, what caused a disciple of Jesus to fall from God’s grace?  How could someone who spent nearly three years with Jesus betray Him in such a manner.  This topic requires further attention so that others do not follow in the footsteps of Judas.

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him, Mark 14:43-45.

According to John 12, Judas Iscariot served as the money changer.  In modern terms, Judas was the treasurer of the 12 disciples.  Whenever individuals donated to Jesus’ ministry, Judas was responsible for collecting and distributing this money to pay for food and travel during this three year span.  While it’s not mentioned, anyone healed by Jesus would have felt compelled to give something exchange for each miracle performed.  Although not everyone possessed money, the wealthy likely contributed a handsome sum.  As gifts and tithes started pouring in, Judas began to help himself like a corrupt politician.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it, John 12:4-6.

Based upon the passage above, careless use of expensive perfume set Judas off.  Enraged by a prostitute wasting this by anointing Jesus, Judas’ bitterness opened the door for the Devil to enter.  During the Last Supper in the Upper Room, Jesus confronts Judas, referring to him as the Devil.  This public rebuke in front of his peers pushed Judas over the edge, making a deal with religious leaders in exchange for money to hand Jesus over to them.  Whenever individuals allow greed, money or selfishness to influence decisions, integrity is lost.  If you want to avoid this slippery slope, take heed of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:19-24.  Failing to do so may lead to following in the footsteps of Judas Iscariot.

by Jay Mankus

Grace or No Grace

One of the best illustrations I heard for grace comes in the form of an acronym.  God’s riches at Christ’s expense.  The concept of grace refers to free and unmerited favor; something you didn’t earn or deserve.  The apostle Paul suggests there may be an occasional exemption made for a good person, but grace isn’t grace without a sacrifice.

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die, Romans 5:7.

The beauty of grace comes in the form of the surprise.  You could be having the worst day of your life, on the verge of becoming a prodigal or set on rebellion.  No matter the candidate, God’s grace falls upon the worthy and unworthy.  This is where the human mind struggles to grasp this concept as the grace which people extend on earth is often based upon results.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8.

This mindset produces the thought, “grace or no grace.”  This selfish desire turns selective, forgiving those whom you like while holding grudges against those you despise.  Human nature feeds this desire as grace is only offered to family, friends and the deserving.  May the words of the passage above guide hearts and minds in the right direction, to love and forgive others just as Jesus did for you and me.

by Jay Mankus

The Real Deal

During an Olympic boxing match, the favorite to win the gold medal was disqualified.  Critics of this decision in the media labeled it as “the Raw Deal.”  This nickname stuck with this boxer for a period of time.  However, when Evander Holyfield became the heavy weight champion of the world, he urged his followers professing, “I’m the real deal,” not the raw deal anymore.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 6:23.

Since this nickname was adopted, others have come forward in various areas of life to claim, “no I’m the real deal.”  The Hardees fast food chain even introduced a value meal called the Real Deal after the former heavy weight champ.  Yet, what separate Evander from most boxers is his devout and vocal testimony of his faith in Christ.  Like any believer he has stumbled and fallen, but God’s grace seals the deal to the promises within the Bible.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life, 1 John 5:13.

Well before Evander Holyfield was born, the authors of the Bible introduced a spiritual real deal.  The apostle Paul refers to a gift from God.  The context is based upon the fact that the sinful actions of mankind deserve death.  Yet, Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, Luke 19:10.  The disciple whom Jesus loved takes this concept one step further, claiming you can know for sure.  While many will claim to be the real deal, put your hope, faith and trust in that which is eternal.

by Jay Mankus

 

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