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Tag Archives: grace

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

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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

 

The Bible’s Response to the Secret Movement

In 2006 a film entitled the Secret was released in theaters.  When a subsequent self help book was written by Rhonda Byrne based upon this earlier movie, a movement began to gain some traction nationwide.  Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Larry King invited the founders of the Secret on their talk shows to discuss its teaching.  Based upon my understanding of this documentary, the mind is used as a catalyst to focus on the law of attraction.  According to the various guest speakers in the film, belief, positive thinking and vision are essential to reach your full potential on earth.  While some of the concepts addressed do make sense, the Bible does respond to the Secret Movement.

“But it shall come about, if you do not listen to and obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today, then all these curses will come upon you and overtake you,” Deuteronomy 28:15.

Instead of explaining good and bad in life through the law of attraction, the Bible has a different set of standards.  According to Moses, the good things in life are a direct result of God’s blessing.  Blessings occur as individuals begin to listen, obey and carefully follow God’s commandments, precepts and statues recorded in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament.  Meanwhile, as people forget, stray from or reject God’s laws, curses come into your life in the form of disappointment, failure and trials.  There are other contributing factors such as prayer, repentance and reconciliation.  Yet, the New Testament introduces the world to a kinder, gentler God, full of grace, mercy and love demonstrated by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Do not quench [subdue, or be unresponsive to the working and guidance of] the [Holy] Spirit. 20 Do not scorn or reject gifts of prophecy or prophecies [spoken revelations—words of instruction or exhortation or warning]. 21 But test all things carefully [so you can recognize what is good]. Hold firmly to that which is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil [withdraw and keep away from it], 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22.

If you read the Secret or watch the movie, you may be tempted to believe in the endless possibilities of thinking everything you want and hope for into reality.  Unfortunately, this idea sounds too good to be true because it sets people up for failure, promising a false sense of reality.  While the Bible does compliment principles such as positive thinking, developing a strong mind and vision, sometimes faithful people like Job are attacked by demons, powers of darkness or Satan himself.  This element of the spiritual realm is not addressed by the Secret Movement.  Yet, when individuals exercise freewill, accidents, mistakes and those who seek revenge can alter, change or permanently end your life.  Thus, the Bible is designed as a light, Psalm 119:105, a guide, John 14:6 and an endless source of information to assure eternal salvation, 1 John 5:13.  May this blog help you sort through tough questions in life and prepare you for future theories about how to get rich quick.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Let Shame Block Out the Son

Abashment, distress, embarrassment, humiliation and mortification are words associated with shame.  This painful feeling is caused by conviction, an internal alarm alerted by consciousness within minds.  God designed human beings with a sense of right and wrong.  The moment your actions cross this invisible line, spirits of guilt and shame inflict souls with a sense of wrong doing.  While God extends his hand, offering grace and forgiveness to those who trespass against others, shame often blocks out the sun.

And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself,” Genesis 3:10.

Shame is a byproduct of sin.  This overwhelming sense of remorse first struck Adam and Eve after breaking God’s only rule, to avoid eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.  This initial compromising act opened the door for shame to haunt souls for the past 6000 years.  One of the ways the Devil inflicts harm on earth is through preventing individuals from forgiving themselves.  Playing flashbacks of previous errors in your thoughts, perfectionists struggle to let go of foolish mistakes.  The more people think about themselves, the Devil uses shame to block out the son, the good news about Jesus Christ.

Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy, Isaiah 61:7.

An Old Testament prophet uses God’s promises to break through clouds of shame.  Since this ancient book depicts an angry and jealous God, grasping the concept of grace, God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense, was difficult to comprehend.  Nonetheless, Isaiah gave a glimpse of the New Testament, an introduction to the abundant life, John 10:10.  Yet, for many believers, shame stands in the way of experiencing everlasting joy.  Therefore, if you are having a tough time letting go of your past, invite the Holy Spirit to break up these clouds.  If you do, the light of Christ will begin to shine through, dissipating any reminders of shame that remains.

by Jay Mankus

 

Spiritual Atrophy

Atrophy refers to the process in which body tissue or organs slowly waste away often due to the degeneration of cells.  Symptoms of atrophy include decay, deterioration, shrinking or withering away until human bodies no longer function as God designed them.  When this condition is diagnosed, aggressive physical therapy is necessary to prevent further complications.  Human beings are not the only things vulnerable to atrophy.

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

Belief, faith and spiritual disciplines can be attacked.  Satan uses compromise, deceit, half-truths and lust to lull Christians into bad habits.  If these patterns persists, it doesn’t take long for a fervent faith to be persuaded into following in the footsteps of the prodigal son.  The apostle Paul uses the term bewitched in a letter to the church at Galatia.  Like atrophy within the human body, initial signs are subtle.  Yet, when minds begin to justify and rationalize wrong actions, spiritual atrophy can become aggressive.

Now before faith came, we were kept in custody under the Law, [perpetually] imprisoned [in preparation] for the faith that was destined to be revealed, 24 with the result that the Law has become our tutor and our disciplinarian to guide us to Christ, so that we may be justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with God] by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under [the control and authority of] a tutor and disciplinarian, Galatians 3:23-25.

A group known as the Judaizers had infiltrated this congregation.  Clinging to religious traditions of Judaism, these zealots began to add conditions to salvation, confusing many of the new converts to faith in Christ.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul explained the original purpose of the law.  However, Jesus came to abolish the law, opening the door for freewill.  Instead of forcing people to believe, God uses freewill to introduce grace, mercy and forgiveness to those who fully repent, turning away from sin and toward God.  This is the cure to spiritual atrophy, taking time each day to pray, thank God and yield your life to Christ alone.  Pursuing godliness is like therapy to overcome the affects of spiritual atrophy.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Overriding the Rules of the Past

The first five books of the Old Testament are known as the Torah.  This Hebrew word refers to the law of God as revealed to Moses.  If Adam and Eve didn’t break God’s initial rule introduced in Genesis 2:16-17, this collection of rules and regulations for life on earth would not be necessary.  Unfortunately, Adam’s lack of leadership is to blame, allowing and watching Satan deceive and encourage Eve to take and eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.  This act of original sin led the apostle Paul to write in Romans 5:12-21 that death came through Adam.  This spiritual destruction was redeemed after God sent a second Adam, Jesus who brought salvation to the world as well as overriding the rules of the past.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh (worldliness, manner of life), God made you alive together with Christ, having [freely] forgiven us all our sins, Colossians 2:13.

This concept is explained by the apostle Paul in a letter to the church at Colosse.  This ancient city of Phrygia in Asia Minor provides a vital message for those individuals stuck in modern denominations that focus on legalism rather than grace.  As a former zealot, Paul uses terminology familiar to God fearing Jews to get their attention.  Without a priest sacrificing an animal on your behalf, first century believers in God were powerless to receive forgiveness.  This co-dependency became a tedious practice that Jesus came to abolish.  As a perfect lamb of God, Jesus embraced death on a cross to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin, once and for all.

Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of legal demands [which were in force] against us and which were hostile to us. And this certificate He has set aside and completely removed by nailing it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities [those supernatural forces of evil operating against us], He made a public example of them [exhibiting them as captives in His triumphal procession], having triumphed over them through [he cross, Colossians 2:14-15.

However, this process would not be completed until Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.  The moment Jesus broke free of his grave clothes, the resurrection was finalized.  This symbolic act cancelled the written codes that stood against human beings.  In one magical second in time, Jesus nailed these age old rules to the cross, conquering death and unlocking the spiritual chains of legalism.  May the passages above speak to heart and give hope to your mind.  While the world tends to believe a relationship with God means living by a strict set of rigid regulations, Jesus came to set you free by overriding the rules of the past with free will.

by Jay Mankus

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