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Forming a Complete Picture of God

It’s rare that you see kindness and severity in the same sentence. These opposing terms highlight elements of God’s nature. According to the apostle Paul, you should take note and appreciate both aspects of God’s personality. While God can demonstrate affection, concern and warmth, this is only one side of the picture. When commands, decrees and expectations aren’t met, God’s wrath is displayed through curses, loss and rebukes.

Then note and appreciate the gracious kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s gracious kindness to you—provided you continue in His grace and abide in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off (pruned away), Romans 11:22.

In the second half of the passage above, the apostle Paul adds a spiritual disclaimer. God’s grace and kindness is dependent upon how you exercise your free will. Those who abide in the fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, enjoy and partake in fellowship with God. However, if you indulge your sinful nature, the severity of God can be unleashed upon disobedient souls. When you consider the pros and cons, a complete picture of God comes into view.

[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents]. 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 1:6-7.

The disciple whom Jesus loved uses an analogy to paint his own picture of God’s true nature. Comparing a relationship with God to taking a walk, you have one of two options. According to John, each choice either represents light or darkness. Decisions inspired by the Holy Spirit result in blessings. On the other hand, poor choices influenced by your sinful nature bring spiritual darkness. The more you abide in Jesus, the clearer human minds become, able to envision a complete picture of God.

by Jay Mankus

Living in a Land of Lions

When you read the Old Testament, certain sections are clear and concise. God’s nature is often revealed by using specific commands to illustrate the importance of obedience. Those who follow the Lord are blessed and those who fail to follow God’s directions are cursed. There is no halfway, it’s either all or nothing.

Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; the words which he had spoken to the king they told also to their father. 12 Their father asked them, Which way did he go? For his sons had seen which way the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13 He said to his sons, Saddle the donkey for me. So they saddled the donkey and he rode on it, 1 King 13:11-13.

In the passage above and below, a prophet of the Lord is fooled by a lie. Apparently, this liar was paid off by King Jeroboam, persuaded to prophecize good and positive messages to enhance his reign. When news of a miracle performed by a visiting prophet from Judah reach this wayward man, he was desperate to meet him. When his own sons were unsuccessful, this discredited prophet makes up an encounter with an angel to change his mind.

He said, I may not return with you or go in with you, neither will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. 17 For I was told by the word of the Lord, You shall not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way that you came. 18 He answered, I am a prophet also, as you are. And an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied to him. 19 So the man from Judah went back with him and ate and drank water in his house, 1 Kings 13:16-19.

Taking this man at his word, this young prophet disobeys God by staying an extra day in this corrupt land. Although a loving God would forgive modern transgressions, God’s command was to not eat or drink another meal before leaving. While this doesn’t seem fair, obedience matters to God. Thus, while bending the rules on this occasion seemed okay, a lion was sent to kill this prophet on his way back home to Judah.

And after the prophet of the house had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the donkey for the man he had brought back. 24 And when he had gone, a lion met him by the road and slew him, and his corpse was cast in the way, and the donkey stood by it; the lion also stood by the corpse. 25 And behold, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown in the road, and the lion standing by the corpse, and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt. 26 When the prophet who brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, It is the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and slain him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to him, 1 Kings 13:23-26.

This story is mentioned in the Bible to serve as a remainder that obedience matters. Making up the rules as you go isn’t an option for a servant of God. While those outside the church may get away with telling a lie from time to time, you can’t fool God as Paul suggests in Galatians 6:7-8. You reap what you sow. Although you probably won’t cross paths with a lion, make sure you’re sowing seeds of encouragement rather than lies of deceit.

by Jay Mankus

When People Expect More From God

Human nature has a way of making people feel more important than they actually are.  Whether you are talking about self-confidence, egos or pride, these traits can blind you from reality.  While Facebook uses terms like status as a way to express yourself, Jesus relied on stories to insure that first century citizens did not misconstrue God’s nature.

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius,” Matthew 20:9-10.

In the parable of the Workers in the Field, Jesus reveals a reality about heaven.  Just because you have been a faithful follower for months, years or decades does not mean your reward will be greater than those who came to faith later in life.  Rather, eternal life is what God promises to those who trust in the Lord.  Sure, the Bible does mention crowns bestowed upon those who faithfully serve God while on earth, but this should be like icing on a cake.

When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.  ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day,’ Matthew 20:11-12.

Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of equating earthly terms with eternity.  Thus, individuals are unable to comprehend the true nature of God.  Subsequently, people grumble like the passage above, disappointed when their expectations for God are no met.  Several of the thirty plus parables recorded in the Bible were spoken to realign human misconceptions with an accurate perception of heaven.  The next time you expect more from God, take some time to read the parables of Jesus so you won’t set yourself up for disappointment in the future.

by Jay Mankus

Whatever?

If you live in the Northeast, then you’ve been at the mercy of God this winter.  One of these days Spring will arrive, yet for now snow, sleet or freezing rain is likely in your weekly forecast.  However, these events shouldn’t be shocking since part of God’s nature is doing whatever pleases Him.

The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. – Psalm 135:6

Whether worldviews are formed through Sunday School, reading books or how you were raised, few have a clear understanding of God’s attributes.  Instead of researching the Scriptures to make sense of the bumps and bruises individuals experience, many human beings respond to trials by accusing, blaming or cursing the Lord for their misery.  When unfortunate events continue to pile up without any end in sight, even the strong can lose hope.

“I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me.  You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me.  You snatch me up and drive me before the wind; you toss me about in the storm.” – Job 30:20-22

Although the majority of Christians are uninformed while living on earth, one day the life you endure on this planet will make sense.  I’m assuming some where along the way, God will unveil the jigsaw puzzle known as your life.  This may not happen until being called home to heaven, but one day the “whatever” in life will be revealed.

by Jay Mankus

 

Vanishing Point

In a world fueled by controversy, negativity and pessimism, its easy to lose sight of the positive.  Affirmations, encouragement and uplifting words often vanish from memories, erased by daily criticism that wound hearts.  This isn’t the only thing to recede, disappearing like the tide going out to sea.

Despite this harsh reality, there is one truth that never vanishes.  According to Psalm 139:13-16, you were knit together in your mother’s womb.  In fact, Jesus takes this one step further, reminding Nicodemus of God’s perfect plan.  According to John 3:16, the expression “so loved” in the Greek refers to from vanishing point to vanishing point.  In other words, before you were born and until your death, God’s love extends throughout time.

When idividuals become aware of this aspect of God’s nature, revival can begin.  Unfortunately, an invisible enemy has blinded the minds of unbelievers, 2 Corinthians 4:4.  All the while, believers are under a difficult kind of attack, pulled in different directions by the world, Galatians 5:16-18.  If this wasn’t enough, the devil is busy stealing, killing and destroying souls.  As the sun sets on another day, don’t allow your thoughts to forget the promises within God’s word, Joshua 1:8, from vanishing point to vanishing point.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Favorite Color

I know what you’re thinking; God doesn’t have favorites.  The earthly brother of Jesus testifies to this fact with his own eyes, James 2:1.  The rest of you are probably like, “who cares; why does it matter anyway?”  You may be right, but the symbolism behind this color provides insight to God’s character and nature.

While God’s favorite metal is gold, fashioned, molded and shaped into every aspect of the tabernacle, Exodus 25-31, acacia appears to be the perfect wood for constructing non metallic pieces.  Beside the 12 jewels representing each of the 12 tribes of Israel, blue, purple and scarlet appear to be God’s favorite mix of colors.  Each of these 3 colors are woven into coverings, curtains and special garments worn by priests.

I’ll be honest; there are certain sections of the Bible that are hard to hold a person’s attention, especially this portion of Exodus and Leviticus.  However, the Holy Spirit is teaching me there is a purpose for the details enclosed within this book.  For instance, blue is symbolic of heaven and holy service.  Meanwhile, purple represents royalty, a sign a riches due to the scarcity of this dye.  Finally, scarlet is commingled with crimson in different translations, referring to blood, cleansing of sin, life and purification.  When you follow the laws handed down by God to Moses, you are essentially displaying blue, purple and scarlet through your actions.  May the prayer of David in Psalm 51:10-12 become a reality for you in 2014, illuminating blue, purple and scarlet!

by Jay Mankus

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