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Tag Archives: grace

Falling Apart

If you have ever played golf or watched a high school match, you understand the expression falling apart. After coaching for a decade, there is nothing worse than observing a teenager lose their confidence. Since there is no coaching during a hole, all you can do is encourage, pray and uplift players on the verge of an emotional breakdown.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit, Psalm 34:18.

As a parent of a freshman and junior, I spend two days a week each spring following both of my kids. Today, a series of showers turned a warm overcast day into a fight for survival. When my daughter had a bad hole I switched over to watch my son who had his worst round of the season. Perhaps, I was the bad luck charm as wherever I went players kept falling apart.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, Psalm 147:3.

The Psalmist provides a message of hope for anyone on the verge of falling apart. David reflects upon a time in his life where his heart was broken and spirit crushed. When David pretended to be insane before Abimelech, he hit rock bottom, ashamed of his current state of mind. Yet, by the grace of God, the Lord brought David through this difficult time. The same applies today for anyone who falls apart. Thus, in future moments of despair, cry out to Jesus who promises healing and restoration to the brokenhearted.

by Jay Mankus

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Busy, Bored or Busted?

During an episode of the Brady Bunch, I learned a good excuse for getting out of something you didn’t want to do. Barry Williams who played Greg on this show got out of a commitment by saying, “something suddenly came up.” In a sense, when you are busy priorities change as individuals get distracted, engaged or wrapped up in something unexpected. This involvement prioritizes one activity over another regardless of what you might have previously said or promised.

Then it happened in the spring, at the time when the kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all [the fighting men of] Israel, and they destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 11:1.

The opposite of busy is bored. Instead of being occupied, souls become aimless, idle, with plenty of time to kill. In the passage above, King David decides not to go to work, taking a vacation for a season. Like a teenager who doesn’t know how to stay out of trouble, it doesn’t take long for boredom to affect David. I guess you can say a mid-night stroll caused David’s mind to wander, lusting after a married woman. Instead of rejecting this desire, David used his power to indulge his sinful nature.

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you as king over Israel, and I spared you from the hand of Saul. I also gave you your master’s house, and put your master’s wives into your [care and under your protection, and I gave you the house (royal dynasty) of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have given you much more! Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife. You have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites, 2 Samuel 12:7-9.

Just like the 1983 song One Thing Leads to Another by the Fixx, boredom takes David down a slippery slope. Adultery, conspiracy and murder isn’t what I call a man after God’s own heart, 1 Samuel 16:7. These words once uttered by the prophet Samuel illustrate how quickly a godly person can fall from grace. Nonetheless, when the prophet Nathan busts David for his crime in the passage above, it’s an important lesson to learn. As soon as anyone wanders off track, adrift from God’s Spirit, boredom often results in full blown sin, James 1:13-15. May this testimony of David serve as a warning to stay busy by doing God’s work and fulfilling his will on earth.

by Jay Mankus

A Name That Fulfills Its Purpose

A businessman was packing for a trip in the morning when he realized his suit was dirty. Frantic, this man began to google nearby dry cleaners. After finding a One Hour Dry Cleaner, this man set out to run a few errands. Upon arriving, he explained his situation to the front desk, expecting to pick up his suit in about an hour. The night manager interrupted this request, “I’m sorry sir, one hour cleaner is our name, not what we do.”

For [it is impossible to restore to repentance] those who have once been enlightened [spiritually] and who have tasted and consciously experienced the heavenly gift and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted and consciously experienced the good word of God and the powers of the age (world) to come, and then have fallen away—it is impossible to bring them back again to repentance, since they again nail the Son of God on the cross [for as far as they are concerned, they are treating the death of Christ as if they were not saved by it], and are holding Him up again to public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

A first century doctor served as a historian, recording the events of the apostle Paul’s mission trips. According to Acts 11:26, Luke noticed something special as he traveled to the city of Antioch. After being baptized following their conversion, people of faith began to emulate the teachings of Jesus. These individuals were so devoted that local residents referred to this movement as Christianity, a name that fulfills its purpose. Unfortunately, by the end of the first century, several sects of this religious movement began to give Christianity a bad name. One warped perspective began to encourage believers to sin more and more so that God’s grace could be poured out upon them. The author of Hebrews addresses this ungodly belief in the passage above.

So Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this [a man equal to Joseph], in whom is the divine spirit [of God]?” – Genesis 41:38.

Every once in a while, you will meet someone who appears to be perfect. While this individual does possess imperfections, something from within makes this person stick out. Such was the case of Joseph, a man of God who fled from evil. Joseph didn’t have to tell people he was a Christian, his faith naturally demonstrated God’s love and wisdom. If you have aspirations for greatness, emulating the life of Jesus is the place to begin. You will fall, slide off course and get tripped up along the way. Nonetheless, God is searching for servants of Christ who strive to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission, Mark 16:15-16, so that faith fulfills its purpose.

by Jay Mankus

Grace Holds Me Now

The byproduct of original sin, Adam and Eve’s decision to eat forbidden fruit, led to separation from God. When the only rule, do not eat of the tree of knowledge, in the Garden of Eden was broken, earth’s first family was banished, expelled from this tropical paradise. Subsequently, a works oriented system using a series of sacrifices was set up to atone for current and past sins. The Old Testament book of Leviticus introduces these offerings with detailed instructions on when and how this should be done.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man [who places his faith in wealth and status] to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were completely astonished and bewildered, saying, “Then who can be saved [from the wrath of God]?” – Matthew 19:24-25

During the first century, a rich young ruler lived his life in according to the 10 commandments, Exodus 20:1-17. Despite his zealous application of these principles, something in this man’s heart didn’t seem right. Thus, this ruler seeks out godly counsel from Jesus, hoping to find comfort that he was on the right track. After a series of questions, Jesus asks this wealthy man to go and sell all of his possessions, then give the proceeds to the poor. While the rich young ruler lived a moral life, at some point he began to trust his own wealth instead of God. This request was just too hard to do, walking away from Jesus in tears.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

Jesus hints at the concept of grace in the passage above. Grace refers to God’s riches at Christ’s expense. This unmerited favor of God toward man is made possible through Jesus’ life as the perfect lamb of God. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection made what was formerly impossible possible. Thus, individuals no longer need to live by the standards of the Old Testament. Rather, anyone who publicly believes in their heart and professes with their mouth that Jesus is Lord will be saved, Romans 10:9-10. Therefore, you don’t have to walk away disappointed like the rich young ruler. Faith in Jesus provides assurance that grace holds you now.

by Jay Mankus

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

Cardiomegaly

In the 1966 Christmas classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the narrator blames the Grinch’s attitude on an abnormally small heart.  As the citizens of Who-ville began to sing carols in preparation of Christmas, the Grinch started to devise a plan to steal their joy.  From a spiritual perspective, the Grinch represents Satan, seeking to steal, kill and destroy any glimpse of the real meaning of Christmas.  Yet, as his plan was interrupted by Little Cindy Lou Who, God used this child to penetrate the Grinch’s soul.  In one instant, when the meaning of Christmas was revealed, the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows], John 10:10.

The medical term for an enlarged heart is cardiomegaly.   This isn’t a disease, but rather a sign of another condition.  For example, during pregnancy, some mothers develop an enlarged heart.  This condition is usually temporary because of stress on your body.  Cardiomegaly can also be brought on by the weakening of the heart muscle, coronary artery disease or heart valve problems.  After three visits to a local cardiologist, I have been diagnosed with an enlarged heart.  My doctor wasn’t concerned, rather he wants me to come back in a year to monitor this condition.  Nonetheless, I do have something in common with the Grinch, an enlarged heart.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 36:26.

Throughout the Bible, there is an emphasis on pursuing a new heart.  The context of this reference is usually within a prayer.  King David asked God for a new heart after committing adultery and murder.  The prophet Jeremiah reveals how hearts can become deceitful, longing for fleshly desires instead of obeying God’s commands.  King Solomon refers to the heart as the well spring to life.  As I complete my 2500th blog, my prayer is that the Lord will create in me a new heart, full of forgiveness, love and mercy.  When individuals begin to demonstrate enlarged hearts seasoned with God’s grace, this world will become a better place to live.

by Jay Mankus

 

Wake Me Up

In the summer of 2009, Staples created a witty back to school shopping advertisement.  This commercial compared children going back to school to the most wonderful time of year for adults.  Using a Christmas carol, parents are jubilantly placing school supplies into a shopping cart while both kids are dazed and depressed.  From time to time, everyone needs comic relief to bring laughter and joy into your life.

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins,” Isaiah 43:25.

When it comes to the spiritual realm, you need more than a funny show to snap you out of a spiritual funk.  This unhealthy state usually begins with distractions from the world, preoccupation with other priorities and simply forgetting to invite God into your daily life.  Those that continue down this road, allowing busyness to take over will begin to experience the early stages of spiritual amnesia.  Symptoms include memory loss in terms of biblical application, failing to pray, a tendency to forget to read the Bible and lost desire to attend church weekly.

“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more,” Hebrews 8:12.

The only known cure to spiritual amnesia is confession.  According to the Old and New Testament of the Bible, God pours out his grace, mercy and forgiveness to those who acknowledge their shortcomings.  Unfortunately, the hardest part of spiritual amnesia is breaking free from its numbing powers.  In my younger years, I went off to a retreat to revive my soul.  Yet, as an adult with a busy schedule, you have to search harder than ever to find opportunities to regain spiritual momentum.  Although recovery does not happen overnight, if you seek God like the persistent widow, Luke 18:1-8, your faith will be restored.

by Jay Mankus

 

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