RSS Feed

Tag Archives: grace

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

The Beautiful Incomplete

The terms beautiful and incomplete are rarely associated with one another. Beautiful refers to high standards or something that is aesthetically pleasing. Meanwhile, incomplete is not having all of the appropriate or necessary parts. Thus, the expression beautiful incomplete does not mesh, an oxymoron that does not make any sense.

Yet, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our Potter,
And we all are the work of Your hand, Isaiah 64:8.

However, an Old Testament prophet eludes to an analogy that illustrates this concept. Human beings are symbolic of a ball of clay held in a master’s hands. This piece of clay is a work in progress, unfinished. Instead of passing by caution cones or construction signs, souls are being crafted, fashioned and molded into God’s own image. Hidden from view, the beautiful incomplete continues daily, waiting for grace to finish it’s work.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” Revelation 21:4.

One of the most frustrating aspects of life is how time stresses people out. The perfect day always ends, dread stays much longer than expected and beautiful relationships tend to fall apart. When individuals fail day after day, growing pains can weigh you down. Meanwhile, goals for perfection are regularly dash, a painful reminder that you are a work in progress. Despite this bad news, there will come a time when tears will pass as the beautiful will be completed when the doors of heaven open.

by Jay Mankus

Blessed to Be Alive

The half-century mark is five decades on this special planet called earth.  As the clock strikes twelve midnight, ending August 13th to commence August 14th will mean that I have reached fifty years of age in 2019.  According to numerology, the number fifty symbolizes the total man.  This favorable number marks grace, kindness and regeneration. Karl von Eckartshausen, an author, German Catholic and philosopher, who lived to see the founding of the United States of America referred to reaching fifty as the number of illumination.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations,” Jeremiah 1:5.

I was born the day Hurricane Camille formed as a tropical depression.  A few days later this massive storm struck the Gulf Coast, the second most intense tropical cyclone on record to hit the United States.  Perhaps, this was a foreshadowing of the life that I would live.  I have survived earthquakes, floods, a microburst and a tornado.  I escaped a head on collision, a freak boating and tubing accident to make it to what I call Hawaii 50.  Nonetheless, I have a lot to be thankful for, truly blessed to be alive.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them, Psalm 139:13-16.

My spiritual birth occurred on December 4th, 1984, during my sophomore year of high school.  My spiritual father was my high school swim coach and Science teacher.  As the leader of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Concord High, Mr. Horne coached, directed and guided new believers toward seeking God’s will for our lives.  While I didn’t always take a straight line or path, the Holy Spirit empowered me to become a Bible teacher, youth director an aspiring writer.  I’m truly blessed to be married to Leanne who gave birth to our 3 wonderful children.  I’m not sure what the Lord has planned for me in the years to come, but I pray that I keep in step with God’s Spirit so that I don’t miss my next calling.

by Jay Mankus

Entrusted to the Grace of God

As a former youth pastor, I have seen how creative teenagers have become to raise money for mission trips.  During my tenure at First United Methodist Church in Columbus, Indiana, three bus loads of junior and senior high students spent a week each summer repairing roofs for a poor community in southern North Carolina.  Anyone who donated money received an invitation to a banquet where pictures and testimonies were shared.  This event was designed to highlight and summarize all that God had done through these young people.

From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been entrusted to the grace of God for the work which they had now completed, Acts 14:26. 

Based upon the words of Luke, Paul and Barnabas began this tradition at their home church in Antioch.  Paul and Barnabas traveled over 1200 miles in a little over two years.  As a result of their travel, more than a dozen new churches were established.  These new partnerships resulted in a series of letters, questions and return visits to help and nurture new converts to Christ.  According to Luke, it took a long time to communicate all that had happened, staying in Antioch an extended period, fellowshipping with Christian brothers and sisters.

Arriving there, they gathered the church together and began to report [in great detail] everything that God had done with them and how He had opened to the Gentiles a door of faith [in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior]. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples, Acts 14:27-28.

While fasting and praying back in Acts 13, the Holy Spirit called Paul and Barnabas to become missionary partners.  Luke refers to this event as being entrusted to the grace of God.  The church leaders in Antioch assigned the task of missionaries to these two godly leaders.  Paul was a Roman citizen while Barnabas was a wealthy man, a good combination for traveling throughout the Mediterranean.  Depending upon the gifts, resources and talents you have been blessed with, make sure you listen to God’s calling so that you will fulfill what God has entrusted you to do.

by Jay Mankus

Out of Faith… Out of Mind

The phrase out of sight out of mind appears to have originated during the 13th century. The first literary appearance of this idiom can be traced to Woorkes in 1562.  Out of sight out of mind refers to the reduced importance and emergence of something that is not within eyesight. When something is not immediately visible, actions, beliefs and choices fluctuate.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, Hebrews 11:1.

This saying also applies to faith.  For example, when children are taught to say grace before eating a meal, prayer becomes an active part of someone’s life.  However, whenever individuals slowly drift apart from God, forgetting prayer will occur.  As an adult, I find myself constantly stuck in some sort of spiritual rut.  Since praying doesn’t come naturally to me, losing touch with faith causes my mind to forget to pray, especially saying grace before I eat a meal.  Subsequently, out of faith becomes out of mind.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him, Hebrews 11:6.

According to the author of Hebrews, faith requires belief.  Genuine faith includes a belief in an invisible God who rewards those who earnest seek his will.  The apostle Paul highlights this process in Romans 12:1-2.  Faith is meant to be active, devoting one’s life as a living sacrifice.  However, when faith slips, minds tend to wander, drifting apart from God’s will,  Therefore, if you want to remain spiritually sharp, treasure and store up God’s Word within your heart, Psalm 119:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

God Doesn’t Move… But Many Run Away

The phrase “like father like son” first appeared in 1616, written within a book called Bibliotheca Scholastica Instructissima.  This piece included proverbs collected by an Englishman named Thomas Draxe.  Apparently, this idiom existed in the English language prior to this date, verbally communicated in similar manners or ways.  The point expressed by this saying implies that sons tend to emulate their fathers in action. behavior and word.  The eyes of a young child are watching, copying what they see.

Then the eyes of the two of them were opened [that is, their awareness increased], and they knew that they were naked; and they fastened fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool [afternoon breeze] of the day, so the man and his wife hid and kept themselves hidden from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden, Genesis 3:7-8.

The Bible has another way of explaining like father like son.  The theological term used in the Old Testament is generational sins: weaknesses or tendencies that are handed down to individuals through the generations from parents or members of a family. These sins can involve behavioral patterns and ways of thinking that keep us trapped in the past.  When Adam and Eve broke the only rule in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2:16-17, God didn’t move, but this couple ran, hiding in shame.

Then the Lord passed by in front of him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (faithfulness); keeping mercy and lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; but He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting (avenging) the iniquity (sin, guilt) of the fathers upon the children and the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations [that is, calling the children to account for the sins of their fathers],” Exodus 34:6-7.

When the news that Aaron, his brother, helped the people of Israel create a golden calf, righteous anger led Moses to break the 10 commandments.  After coming back down the mountain, Moses introduces generation sins with the phrase iniquities of the father.  Any violation of God’s moral law is considered an iniquity.  Thus, each time a father strays from the Word of God, setting a bad example for his children, these sinful tendencies are passed down three to four generations.  Isaac learned how to lie from his father Abraham, Jacob’s family was notorious for disguising the truth and Solomon developed an unwholesome obsession with women after his birth from an adulterous affair.

‘Because the Lord was not able to bring these people into the land which He promised to give them, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.’ 17 But now, please, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, saying, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving wickedness and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting (avenging) the wickedness and guilt of the fathers on the children, to the third and fourth generations [that is, calling the children to account for the sins of their fathers],’ Numbers 14:16-18.

Everyone has some sort of tendency to collect or pick what they see on a daily basis.  This subconscious practice shapes who you and I become.  Some may do this to fit in, others to obtain a hobby with a few to merely pass time.  Nonetheless, the scene in the Garden of Eden is replayed daily when conviction leads to guilt and shame.  Instead of drawing near to God, many run away ashamed, embarrassed and haunted by past mistakes.  When any hopes for perfection are shattered, may the grace of God lead you to stick around.  Wait for God’s forgiveness and mercy to be poured out through confession like a cold glass of water on a hot and humid day.

by Jay Mankus

%d bloggers like this: