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Tag Archives: heart

The Jesus Check List

For the past 25 years, Thanksgiving serves as a dual purpose for my family.  The first is obvious, to reconnect, reflect and share how the past year has gone, either good, bad or indifferent.  The second is a precursor to Christmas, exchanging gift wish lists.  Thanks to Amazon, most of this is done online to avoiding writing down the same list several times on a piece of paper.  Nonetheless, as Christmas Day approaches, there is an internal list with decorations, gift wrapping and preparations that need to completed before you can actually enjoy Jesus’ birthday.

For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations],” Romans 10:10-11.

A 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman introduced another kind of list.  The Bucket List involves two men who have been each diagnosed with terminal cancer.  After meeting in the hospital for the first time, the billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole played by Nicholson finances a series of trips before each man dies.  In a race against the clock, these men invest their energy doing the things in life they always wanted to do, but never took the time.  Since the initial release of the Bucket List, several # movements have transformed others on the verge of death to pursue their own check list of dreams and goals to accomplish.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you], Romans 12:1-2.

My favorite list is one that gets little attention, but results in eternal rewards, the Jesus Check List.  Instead of going through life focusing on the things you want to experience, the Jesus Check List is based upon fulfilling God’s will for your life.  Before you can start this list, you need to join Jesus’ team as described by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:10-11.  The moment you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you gain access to the Holy Spirit.  C.S. Lewis refers to this as theological virtues in Mere Christianity, enabling new converts to obtain charity, faith and hope as you progress down Jesus’ Check List.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God [which represents all that Jesus Christ is and does], so that you will know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have eternal life. 14 This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us, 1 John 5:13-14.

As individuals begin to daily prayer, read the Bible and begin to worship God throughout the week, not just on Sunday’s, lives can be radically changed if you stick with the Jesus Check List.  The apostle Paul refers to this as a process, offering up your life each day as a living sacrifice to God.  This involves asking God a series of questions in the form of a prayer.  What do you want me to do today?  Where do you need me to go to help others?  Who needs to be encouraged, give me eyes to see?  How can I reach the lost; using the God given talents you have blessed me with?  If you take this blog to heart, you will be well on your way, certain of the eternal rewards awaiting you in heaven with each day you commit to serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

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When God Has a Change in Plans

Back in 2016, I had emergency eye surgery in my right eye to prevent glaucoma from escalating.  After this operation, my surgeon informed me of a cataract that would need to be addressed in the future.  The initial goal was to wait a year then have cataract surgery.  However, this got pushed back until yesterday or least that’s what I thought.  When my blood pressure went from 130 over 80 Tuesday morning to 177 over 130 Thursday morning, God had a change of plans.  This procedure that involved six months of planning was abruptly cancelled.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps, Proverbs 16:9.

The older I get, the more analytical I become, pondering the reason for this delay.  Could I have died during this operation?  Did God prevent an accident from occurring?  Can God heal my eye supernaturally foregoing the need for this procedure?  Or did God want me to become painfully aware of a more pressing health need in my life?  As I ask these questions to God, I am still awaiting a clear response.  Nonetheless, King Solomon prepared the nation of Israel by warning people of God’s ability to alter, change or redirect your path.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand, Proverbs 19:21.

Currently, I find myself perplexed, essentially placed on bed rest until my blood pressure returns to a more normal level.  A few weeks before my senior year of college began, I broke my foot playing sand volleyball.  Instead of enjoying the final weeks of summer, I laid in bed, elevating my foot to reduce the swelling.  Five years ago a sledding accident resulted in 2 broken ribs and a collapsed lung, forced to take a medical leave of absence from work for five weeks.  When God quickly changes your plans, it’s not fun.  Yet, as I lie around in bed for a few days, I have time to reflect.  As I do, this is God’s way of reintroducing me to his plans, not mine.  Thus, I sit here quietly, listening intently and writing down for others in a blog what I am learning as I go through this tryin time in life.

by Jay Mankus

Making Peace with God

Hollywood usually falls short when attempting to accurately illustrate a biblical principle.  Yet, in the 1994 film Forrest Gump, the evolution of Gary Sinise’ character helps viewers understand what is means to make peace with God.  Lieutentant Dan is born into a long lineage of military officers.  In his mind, Lieutentant Dan believed he was destined to die on a battlefield in Vietnam along with his battalion.  However, Forrest Gump’s act of bravery forced Lieutentant Dan to live the rest of his life on earth without legs.  As Forrest ran off to pursue other aspirations in life, Lieutentant Dan was bound to a wheel chair.  Bitterness grew within Lieutentant Dan’s heart until Gump became a shrimp boat captain.  Volunteering as Gump’s second mate, Lieutentant Dan wrestles with his purpose on earth.  During a major hurricane, Lieutentant Dan verbalizes his frustrations, welcoming the wrath of nature head on as if to seek a duel with God.  After this storm passes, Lieutentant Dan makes peace with God.

One of the criminals who had been hanged [on a cross beside Him] kept hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us [from death]!” 40 But the other one rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?-Luke 23:39-40

A first century doctor, no stranger to death, shares a story about Jesus just before his death on a cross.  For some reason, this encounter is glanced over by the other 3 gospel authors, skipped to cover other healings, miracles and stories.  In the passage below, Luke reveals steps toward making peace with God.  The first involves acknowledging your imperfections or as the apostle Paul once said, “falling short of God’s glory,” Romans 3:23.  Once individuals confess their sins to God, step two is geared toward securing an eternal destiny.  The disciple whom Jesus loved once proclaimed, “you don’t have to hope for an answer; you can know for certain,” 1 John 5:13.  On their death bed, hanging from a cross, one criminal went to hell and other was promised to be with Jesus in paradise, heaven.  This is one of the best biblical examples of making peace with God.

We are suffering justly, because we are getting what we deserve for what we have done; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, [please] remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” 43 Jesus said to him, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise,” Luke 23:41-43.

Whenever I attend a funeral, enter an emergency room or take off in an airplane, making peace with God is brought to the forefront.  Instead of reading a book or watching a movie, the fragility of life flashes through my mind.  Sadly, most people don’t consider making peace with God until its too late.  As my blood pressure sky rocketed yesterday while sitting in preop, I was powerless, unable to control my breathing.  When my eye surgery was cancelled, too dangerous to perform due to my elevated blood pressure, my perspective on life changed like Lieutentant Dan in Forrest Gump.  Maybe I won’t be the person I hoped for or be able to achieve the dreams that I aspire, but at some point I have to make peace with God.  I guess it’s time to surrender my goals by yielding to God’s ultimate plan for my life on earth.  Although I still don’t know exactly what that is, my recent health scare has provided me the opportunity to make peace with God where I am.

by Jay Mankus

God is Watching Over You

If anyone had a reason to doubt and question God, it was Job, a character in one of the oldest books of the Bible.  After his children died in a storm similar to a tornado, Job contracted boils all over his body.  Old Testament rationale associated the bad things that happened to individuals as a sign of punishment from God.  Thus, as bystanders stood by watching the trials that besieged Job, even three of Job’s best friends began to doubt his innocence.

“Behold, God is exalted in His power; Who is a ruler or a teacher like Him?” – Job 36:22

Feeling abandoned, one thought came to Job’s mind, God is watching over you.  While Job’s wife wanted him to curse God and die, his years of spending time with God enabled common sense to prevail.  Just as Jacob physically wrestled with God, Job struggled to comprehend what was happening to him.  This spiritual tussle inspired Job to record these events within an Old Testament book.  The worse things get in life, God has a way of humbling people to the point desperately trusting the Lord with your heart, soul and mind.

He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, He who keeps Israel.  Will neither slumber [briefly] nor sleep [soundly].  The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand, Psalm 121:3-5.

The Psalmist describes how God specifically watches over human beings.  Shepherds gave thanks for not twisting their ankle despite walking along rocky terrain.  Meanwhile, others sang about God’s never ending protection, watching over us like the old Bette Midler song From a Distance.  Finally, God is like a keeper, a shepherd guiding sheep around danger, a shade of protection in times of trouble.  Therefore, the next time you find yourself in the midst of adversity, remember the invisible guardian in the heavens above who is watching over you and me.

by Jay Mankus

What It Means to be One Nation Under God

Since October media reports has followed caravans of people from Latin America, hoping for a better life.  Depending upon your choice of cable news networks, reporters covering this story have attempted to define who these people really are.  As the masses have reached the border seeking asylum, politics have divided Americans.  Those who don’t want borders have invoked religion, accusing opponents of being anti-Christian, failing to love these individuals like Jesus.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world, James 1:27.

Anyone who picks and choses what they want to believe from the Bible while disregarding other parts is known as syncretism.  This practice blends cultures, religions and schools of thought to appease, relate to and unite a large diverse audience.  Unfortunately, when politicians use syncretism it’s often masked with Saul Alinsky tactics from Rules for Radicals.  Instead of using the Bible in its proper context, political talking points often seize opportunities like the caravan to condemn and criticize anyone who dares to disagree.  If you watch any nightly news, politics is a vessel of division.  What America needs is to go back to its roots.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? – 1 John 3:17

The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States was composed by Captain George Thatcher Balch. Balch was a Union Army Officer during the Civil War and later became a teacher of patriotism in New York City schools.  The most recent alteration of its wording came on Flag Day in 1954, when the words “under God” were added.  When my father’s family fled Lithuania during the Soviet Union’s invasion of the Baltic States, he came to America to start over living with a host family.  While a large number of Lithuanians migrated to Binghamton, New York, these immigrants eventually became citizens.  The goal wasn’t to make America Lithuanian.  Rather, it was to become one nation, united by a common faith in God, to carry on their former nation’s heritage united under one flag.  This is what it means to live as one nation under God.

by Jay Mankus

Not the Thanksgiving I Invisioned

A routine physical earlier this week has turned my life upside down.  Standing on a scale revealed my heaviest weight ever, not a good way to start this check up.  Before my primary care doctor entered the room, I took a brief depression survey, confident in my responses.  However, after my blood pressure was sky high, a series of comments from my doctor sucked the joy out of my soul, wanting to go back to change my previous answers.

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 5:20.

Like a warning from God, I listened to all the possible conditions that might be wrong with me.  This internal alarm resulted in a series of tests on my heart, kidney and thyroid.  The past 48 hours has been like a whirlwind, hooked up to machines, placed on new medicine and forced to endure another series of examinations and tests next week.  This wasn’t the way I expected to spend the week of Thanksgiving.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

As I began to embrace self pity, a whisper from God via the Holy Spirit has put my circumstances into it’s proper perspective.  “At least you’re alive.  What about the residents of Paradise, California, losing their city, homes and loved ones?”  While I still don’t know what’s exactly wrong with me beside being overweight, Thanksgiving has a new meaning to me.  Although there will be aches and pains throughout life, staying positive, hopeful and thankful is what get’s you through the tough times.  God uses trials like mine to remind people to place their trust in Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Jesus’ Goal

 

When modern writers recount the first century life of Jesus, the human side of Jesus is often neglected.  According to the author of a New Testament book, Jesus is able to sympathize with and understands temptation and human weaknesses.  Hebrews 4:15-16 details how Jesus was tempted in every way just as individuals are today, yet did not sin.  Despite possessing emotional, mental and physical urges, Jesus never lost sight of his goal.

And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox [that sly, cowardly man], ‘Listen carefully: I cast out demons and perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I reach My goal,’ Luke 13:32.

During a heated exchange with Pharisees, a few disgruntled religious leaders spilled the beans, Herod Antipas wanted to kill Jesus.  This plot was not hidden from Jesus, aware from the very beginning of the fate that he must endure.  In response to this warning, Jesus tells these Pharisees to give Herod a message.  The phrase third day could have duel meanings, I’ll be arriving in three days after confronting demons and healing those possessed.  Or the third day serves as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ resurrection following his death on a cross.

Nevertheless I must travel on today and tomorrow and the day after that—for it cannot be that a prophet would die outside of Jerusalem. 34 [O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones [to death] those [messengers] who are sent to her [by God]! How often I have wanted to gather your children together [around Me], just as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were not willing! – Luke 13:33-34

The closer Jesus got to Jerusalem, the more sentimental he became, broken inside by the masses who would soon cheer for his crucifixion.  Knowing the future is like a double edged sword, a powerful tool to have, but painful, unable to stop that which was destined to be.  Nonetheless, as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his arrest, Jesus foregoes any thoughts for self preservation by yielding to God’s will, Matthew 26:39.  Jesus’ ultimate goal is clear, “seek and to save that which was lost,” Luke 19:10 by dying and rising from the dead.  May the Holy Spirit speak to your heart so that you too may know your purpose for being born.

by Jay Mankus

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