RSS Feed

Tag Archives: grace

Progressively Acquainted with Christ

The Progressive Corporation was founded in 1937 and has grown to one of the largest providers of car insurance in the United States. Whether it’s all the commercials using Flo as its’ spokesperson or the new sign guy, television advertisements have increased business national wide. The term progressive refers to developing gradually, proceeding step by step. Progressivism in the United States is a political philosophy and reform movement designed to alter the Constitution to keep up with the times.

Now as you abound and excel and are at the front in everything—in faith, in expressing yourselves, in knowledge, in all zeal, and in your love for us—[see to it that you come to the front now and] abound and excel in this gracious work [of almsgiving] also. I give this not as an order [to dictate to you], but to prove, by [pointing out] the zeal of others, the sincerity of your [own] love also, 2 Corinthians 8:7-8.

In a letter to the Corinthian Church, the apostle Paul uses progressive in the context of a personal relationship with God. As individuals begin to open the Bible, learn how to pray and open their hearts to worship, this acquaintance grows. As concepts like grace begin to be introduced, a bond is formed with an invisible being, As crazy as this might seem to the un-churched, Christians seek a progressive acquaintance with God.

For you are becoming progressively acquainted with and recognizing more strongly and clearly the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (His kindness, His gracious generosity, His undeserved favor and spiritual blessing), [in] that though He was [so very] rich, yet for your sakes He became [so very] poor, in order that by His poverty you might become enriched (abundantly supplied), 2 Corinthians 8:9.

If you follow the example of Jesus detailed in Mark 1:35, the Lord should be your first priority. Proceeding step by step in faith, a progressive acquaintance is formed. Instead of a casual, on today off tomorrow relationship, a permanent meaningful tie develops. As prayers are answered and miracles seen, a fire ignites within souls to want more and more. Thus, don’t let the Coronavirus sever your connection with God. Instead find time in your schedule daily so that you are progressively acquainted with Christ.

by Jay Mankus

The Smallest Level of Faith is Hope

Martin Seligman’s research on learned helplessness was a inspired by a study using laboratory rats. In this particular experiment, rats were placed into water for an extended period of time. After ten minutes of fervently swimming to stay alive, the rats began to give up, drowning. A second experiment was launched to focus on learned helplessness. This time rats were removed from the water after 9 minutes, each were dried off and given food before repeating this process. The second time these rats fought for 15 minutes and the third they remained swimming for half an hour.

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.

A series of parables shared by Jesus became etched into the mind of a first century doctor. Three particular stories inspired an entire chapter, Luke 15. The common element of these 3 parables is the length at which God will go out of his way to rescue the lost. Whether you have gone astray like a lost sheep, misplaced a valuable possession, or have chosen to go your own way like the prodigal son, God is waiting with open arms to welcome you back. If God can save undeserving sinners of the past, there’s no reason not to believe that God won’t save you or me either.

But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior to man [as man] appeared, He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but because of His own pity and mercy, by [the] cleansing [bath] of the new birth (regeneration) and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:4-5.

The message of salvation provides a glimmer of hope for the faithless. Just like the rats who were rescued from the water in the experiment above, God sent Jesus to seek and save those who are lost, Luke 19:10. Prior to hope entering your life, doubt resides within most minds, taking control over your thought life. Therefore, the smallest level of faith is hope, Hebrews 11:1-6. Since you have to start some where, allow hope to enable you to overcome learned helplessness.

by Jay Mankus

Remaining Positive in a World Full of Bad News

I find myself turning the channel quicker and quicker each time I stop by to get a quick news update. My ears have developed a sharp antenna, recognizing intros to the latest hit piece slandering President Trump. As cable news anchors eagerly await comments from their guest panelists, I’m already channel searching, trying to something apolitical to watch. Unfortunately, even sporting events are becoming a haven for politics.

And I say, Perished is my strength and my expectation from the Lord. 19 [O Lord] remember [earnestly] my affliction and my misery, my wandering and my outcast state, the wormwood and the gall. 20 My soul has them continually in remembrance and is bowed down within me, Lamentations 3:18-20.

In the passage above, Lamentations reveals Judah’s pathetic condition following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. This collection of poetic laments flowed out of broken hearts following the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 Before Christ. In the midst of this devastating news, many wore their emotions on their sleeves. Perhaps, the Coronavirus in 2020 serves as a painful reminder of how blessed and good life was prior to this pandemic.

But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: 22 It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. 24 The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him, Lamentations 3:21-24.

While many might want to go back in time to experience handshakes and hugs, public displays of affection will have to wait for now. Yet, within this misery and isolation, God has not changed. Although our circumstances are different, the Lord still offers grace, mercy and loving kindness. Thus, despite living in a world full of bad news, God is my hope and strength. May the biblical promise above give you the faith to carry on.

by Jay Mankus

Free Falling

Jeff Lynne produced Tom Petty’s 1989 album Full Moon Fever. Liner notes in Petty’s Playback box set includes the story behind Petty’s hit song Free Fallin’. While playing some elaborate stuff on the keyboard, Jeff and Tom stumbled upon three simple chords. According to this insert, Lynne suggested that Tom stop playing all the hard stuff and just sing some words to these three chords. Although Lynne came up with the title Free Fallin’, Tom figured out the best way to sing this phrase.

He who loves [and takes more pleasure in] father or mother more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves [and takes more pleasure in] son or daughter more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me; 38 And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conforming wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also] is not worthy of Me. 39 Whoever finds his [lower] life will lose it [the higher life], and whoever loses his [lower] life on My account will find it [the higher life], Matthew 10:37-39.

The phrase free falling presupposes that an individual has reached a certain height or point in life before coming back to earth. The Bible suggests that idleness triggers people of faith to begin to their descent, sliding further and further away from God. The greatest example of this in the Bible occurs in 2 Samuel 11:1-5. When David decided not to go off to war in the Spring, he took an extended vacation from work. When you’re not where you are suppose to be, even Christians can fall from grace.

And so they incur condemnation for having set aside and slighted their previous pledge. Moreover, as they go about from house to house, they learn to be idlers, and not only idlers, but gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say and talking of things they should not mention, 1 Timothy 5:12-13.

Every year a famous Christian leader held in high regards is exposed when their spiritual free fall is revealed by headline news. The latest victim is Jerry Falwell Jr, former president of Liberty University. In a recent article by Jeff E. Schapiro in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginia Democrats are enjoying this latest sex scandal. As politicians scrape the bottom of the barrel, may Jerry’s demise serve as a wake up call for those of you with an idle faith. May this free fall inspire you to repent and draw near to God.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Endgame

The term endgame is an expression from the game of chess. Dating back to the 1850’s, endgame refers to the final stage when few pieces remain on the board. When a player’s remaining piece or pieces are trapped, it’s only a matter of time before your opponent declares, “check mate.” From a spiritual perspective, God has always remained one step ahead of the Devil. Just as he was reveling in his victory over Adam and Eve, God’s endgame is revealed in Genesis 3:14-15. While the Devil acquired authority as ruler of the air as spoils for his triumph, Ephesians 2:2, Jesus is sent as a second Adam to change the momentum in this spiritual game of chess.

And Jesus said to him, Today is [Messianic and spiritual] salvation come to [all the members of] this household, since Zacchaeus too is a [real spiritual] son of Abraham; 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:9-10.

According to the apostle Paul, there is no one on earth who is capable of pleasing God, Romans 3:10-12. No matter how determined you may be to achieve perfection, it won’t be long before your weaknesses are exposed. Subsequently, human beings are flawed creatures, unable to turn off their curious nature. Whether you wander into darkness or sit on the fence, watching the grass on the other side, everyone screws up. In the passage above, Jesus meets with a corrupt politician who always took more than was necessary. Despite over taxing and stealing from his constituents, Jesus’ endgame was to seek and to save those who were lost.

For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live], Ephesians 2:10.

The game changer for sinners occurs in Romans 5:8. Despite all of our imperfections, God sent his son Jesus to die on our behalf. When Jesus was finally pronounced dead on the cross, Matthew 27:50, the Devil was lulled into a false sense of security. Believing this chess match was over, the Devil convinced one of Jesus’ disciples to take his own life, Matthew 27:5. Jesus died so that individuals could be raised back to life spiritually using this same resurrection power. The apostle Paul uses an illustration in Colossians 3:1-9 as you put to death your old life you can be recreated in Christ Jesus. God’s endgame introduces grace to the lost, God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Whatever you endure, don’t forget God’s endgame.

by Jay Mankus

When You are Going Through a Phase in Life

As children begin to experience and go through puberty, this period initializes a series of phases in life. Depending upon maturity, support systems, and upbringing, most teenagers don’t respond well to change. Each phase could last as short as a week, extend for months or stretch beyond a year. As a former teacher, I recognize the obvious signs and signals. Yet, some are like poker players who hide their cards well.

But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior to man [as man] appeared, He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but because of His own pity and mercy, by [the] cleansing [bath] of the new birth (regeneration) and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:4-5.

If I had to point to my own life, the junior high years were the hardest for me. At five feet tall and ninety pounds for 2 years, I was an easy target for bullies. One of the only positives for me was my speed, able to outrun most of my attackers like Forrest Gump. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a Jenny who attended the same school. My neighbor Jeanette went to a private school so I was forced to fend for myself like the social misfits in the classic film Outsiders.

Which He poured out [so] richly upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. [And He did it in order] that we might be justified by His grace (by His favor, wholly undeserved), [that we might be acknowledged and counted as conformed to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action], and that we might become heirs of eternal life according to [our] hope, Titus 3:6-7.

I thought joining the Boy Scouts might help me overcome the fitting in phase. Looking back, I found just as many bullies there as in school. What I really needed was a personal relationship with Jesus, but this didn’t happen until 10th grade. As I put God on hold for a few more years, a couple of friends were sent to help me while God was waiting. Thus, as some of you may be struggling with a new phase in life, don’t forget to call on the name of the Lord to get you through the challenges that you’re currently facing.

by Jay Mankus

Spiritual Enrichment

Enrichment is the action of enhancing or improving the quality or value of something. This term is often association with increasing the proportion of a particular isotope in an element. During the cold war, the Soviet Union and United States began competing to see who could stock pile the most nuclear weapons. The enrichment of uranium using the U-235 isotope makes it possible for use in a nuclear reactor or weapon.

I thank my God at all times for you because of the grace (the favor and spiritual blessing) of God which was bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, 1 Corinthians 1:4.

In the opening of his first letter to the church of Corinth, Paul introduces the concept of spiritual enrichment. This process is made possible by God’s grace who is willing to give sinners multiple second chances. Indirectly referencing John 3:16-17, Jesus’ death and resurrection gives a breath of life to the hopeless. This free gift isn’t forced upon individuals. Rather, for those who accept Jesus into their hearts, Romans 10:9-10, favor in the form of spiritual blessings enriches lives.

[So] that in Him in every respect you were enriched, in full power and readiness of speech [to speak of your faith] and complete knowledge and illumination [to give you full insight into its meaning]. 1 Corinthians 1:5.

One of the ways modern Christians are enriched is through giving, sharing and serving others. Whether you give blood in this time of need, share any excess that you may have to the needy or serve in a local food bank, these are ways to enrich others. As the Coronavirus continues to plague the United States and the rest of the world, may God open your eyes to daily opportunities to spiritually enrich family, friends and neighbors.

by Jay Mankus

Irrevocable

Irrevocable is defined as not able to be changed, reversed, or recovered. The context of this term involves absolute, final and unalterable results. Once a decision is made by God, whether it’s a calling, eternal destiny or spiritual gift, this is permanent. The apostle Paul’s usage of irrevocable in the passage below supports the theological belief, “once saved always saved.”

For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call,] Romans 11:29.

Paul is eluding to the sovereign will of God in this portion of his letter to the church at Rome. Feeling compelled to re-enforce the covenant of grace, Paul assures first century followers of Christ that God’s promises never change. Whatever God purposes is never reversed or revoked. Thus, this verse serves as a form of assurance to encourage anyone filled with concern, doubts or uncertainty.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved at heart. So the Lord said, I will destroy, blot out, and wipe away mankind, whom I have created from the face of the ground—not only man, [but] the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air—for it grieves Me and makes Me regretful that I have made them. But Noah found grace (favor) in the eyes of the Lord, Genesis 6:5-8.

The Old Testament provides a complete picture of God’s true character. Prior to the great flood in Genesis, wickedness spread throughout the earth. Just like during the era of Judges, individuals began to do what was right in their own eyes. As God watched from heaven, His heart was broken. Instead of destroying every human being, Noah found favor in God’s eyes. When the Lord sought to destroy the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah, the prayers of Abraham in Genesis 18 persuaded God to save the righteous. When everything is put together, you may not always understand the mind of God, but his call and gifts are irrevocable.

by Jay Mankus

A Foretaste of the Blissful Things to Come

In the passage below, the apostle Paul points out that the Holy Spirit isn’t limited to Christians and Jews. Rather, God’s Spirit now extends to Gentiles who believe by entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The term first fruits likely refers to the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit poured out on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:1-4. Meanwhile, the foretaste of things to come is symbolic of the grace of God communicated to all in conversion.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption (our manifestation as God’s sons), Romans 8:23.

One of my former pastors explained grace as God’s riches at Christ’s expense. However, as Paul explains in the passage below, grace is invisible. Thus, as individuals begin to adjust their practices following their conversion from worldly pleasures toward eternal treasures, this transition is rarely smooth. Initial confessions of sin are refreshing, like receiving a shower of grace from heaven. Yet, when you begin to commit the same sinful act day after day, grace is cheapened and hope can be lost.

For in [this] hope we were saved. But hope [the object of] which is seen is not hope. For how can one hope for what he already sees? – Romans 8:24

In a letter to the church of Corinth, Paul pours out his heart during a moment of weakness, 2 Corinthians 12:7-12. Like anyone who is experiencing a spiritual free fall, the conviction of the Holy Spirit is overwhelming. Perhaps, Paul’s plea to God is merely asking the Lord, “why do I have to go through this?” Nonetheless, each Christian goes through a process known as sanctifying grace. This form of grace makes a soul acceptable and justified before God. Despite whatever hardships that you endure, may you recognize the foretaste of grace that will be completed before you meet your creator in heaven.

by Jay Mankus

A Soldiers Rage

A well known pastor recently had an extended layover at an airport. This extra time opened the door for an intriguing conversation with a stranger. As these two men talked, a soldier in his late twenties asked, “so what do you do?” This opportunity brought God into their discussion. Moments later there was a period of silence. Eager to dive deeper, the pastor asks this soldier, ” so what’s your story? Since our flight has been delayed, we’ve got plenty of time now.” After a slight hesitation, this marksman began to bear his soul.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God, James 1:19-20.

While this pastor had heard several sob stories over the course of his ministry, this one went straight to the top. At age 3, his father committed suicide. Six years later, he witnessed a sexual assault and a murder. Before this suspect was arrested, he was threatened to be killed if he told anyone. If this wasn’t enough, one of his sons who was babysat while he was serving in the Middle East was sexually assaulted. All of these bitterness turned into rage, prompting this soldier to become a killing machine, a gifted machine gunner. At this point, tears welled up in both men’s eyes as a soldier’s rage was revealed.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil, Psalm 37:8.

This story reminds me of my friend Harry from Ohio. However, by the time I met Harry, he was already filled with bitterness. The best way to describe Harry was that he cursed like a sailor in every sentence, lived with his girlfriend and spent each day rebelling from God. Yet, during a trip to Cedar Point in Ohio, my best friend Eddy and I stood in shock as Harry bumped into his former youth pastor. Scratching our heads, we never knew, thought or could imagine that Harry had a spiritual past. This divine encounter turned Harry’s life around. Although the transformation moved slowly, this soldier’s rage was replaced by the grace of God.

by Jay Mankus

%d bloggers like this: