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Tag Archives: heaven

A Celebration of Faith

In between sports seasons, I take my youngest two, Daniel and Lydia, to play frisbee golf on Saturdays.  Usually, lunch is involved, either before or after to encourage participation.  Once we reach our favorite course at Canby Park, some discs go way off course, often requiring a search and rescue crew.  These undesirable terrains include winding creeks, sticker bushes and wild vegetation.  It’s not uncommon to get cut and bleed profusely without recognizing it right away.

And they spoke the word of the Lord [concerning eternal salvation through faith in Christ] to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their bloody wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household, Acts 16:32-33.

A similar phenomena happened to the apostle Paul and Silas in the passage above.  Twenty four hours earlier, these men were beaten with rods.  According to Luke, each were struck several times, Acts 16:23.  After being thrown into a dungeon and feet fastened to stocks in an agonizing position, their initial pain was redirected in another direction.  Despite this momentary setback, a time of prayer and worship served as a distraction.  Caught up in the excitement of a jailor and his family coming to faith in Christ, Paul and Silas forgot about their bloody wounds.

Then he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, since he had believed in God with his entire family [accepting with joy what had been made known to them about the Christ], Acts 16:34.

When human hearts and minds are set on things above, temporary pains fade away, Colossians 3:1-3.  Jesus taught his disciples to become fishers of men, winning souls to believe in God.  Whenever individuals witness a spiritual transformation, it’s a cause for a celebration.  Following the baptism of a jailor and his entire family, a party is thrown like a modern day church reception.  As the lost come to their senses, a celebration of faith is in order.  According to Luke, angels celebrate in heaven each time a sinner repents, Luke 15:10.

by Jay Mankus

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Growing Old and Apart

As one of the newest  members of the AARP club, this is a sign of getting old.  Yet, as I reflect upon my current state of relationships, time has caused me to forget and ignore special friendships from my past.  Part of this is due to my desire to be a good father, spending as much time with my children as possible.  Unfortunately, without a healthy balance at the moment, I am growing old and apart.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him,” Genesis 2:18.

After creating the heavens and the earth, God recognized that a pet could not replace a human soul mate.  Subsequently, the Lord created the first woman out of Adam’s rib.  This miracle set the stage for the institution of marriage, Genesis 1:23-24.  When two people become one, a special bond is formed.  Yet, this doesn’t mean you should forget the people that you have crossed paths with over the course of your life.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit, Psalm 51:12.

Following king David’s affair with Bathsheba, a spirit of conviction consumed his soul.  After hearing the prophet Nathan’s analogy of a little ewe lamb, David became painfully aware of his transgression.  Psalm 51 serves as a prayer of confession, asking the Lord to pardon him from sin.  In my case, before my home becomes an empty nest in 3 years, I need to reconnect with old friends.  While I may not be welcomed back with opened arms, I need to follow the prayer of David above so that I grow old and reunite with old friends.

by Jay Mankus

Rains from Heaven

While farmers pray for rain each summer to nurture freshly planted crops, vacationers hope for clear sunny skies until nightfall.  Meanwhile, those who reside in the path of previous hurricanes or tornado alley, plead with God to save their home, lives and town.  From God’s perspective, every day prayers lifted up to heaven often contradict one another.  Subsequently, rain sent from heaven will bless some while serving as a curse to others.

Yet He did not leave Himself without some witness [as evidence of Himself], in that He kept constantly doing good things and showing you kindness, and giving you rains from heaven and productive seasons, filling your hearts with food and happiness,” Acts 14:17.

After healing a man crippled from birth, eyewitnesses of this miracle exalted Paul and Barnabas to god-like status.  Instead of receiving this praise, Paul reveals the source of his power, pointing to heaven.  Evidence of God’s presence can be seen daily if you are watching closely.  Unfortunately, many have become oblivious, too focused on their own lives to thank the Lord for rains sent from heaven.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens], in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [for He is perfect and never changes]. 18 It was of His own will that He gave us birth [as His children] by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits of His creatures [a prime example of what He created to be set apart to Himself—sanctified, made holy for His divine purposes], James 1:17-18.

An earthly brother came to realize this fact following Jesus’ resurrection.  Perhaps, the passage above is a culmination of a private conversation prior to Jesus ascending into heaven.  If only negative people who try to bring you down would grasp the concept that every perfect gift comes from above.  Embracing this mindset would transform families, neighborhoods and workplaces.  Yet, for now, the best way to keep this message alive is by pointing to rain sent from heaven.

by Jay Mankus

How to Increase Your Strength

Everyone wants to feel important at some point in time.  In the early stages of life, a desire to fit in will cause individuals to want to become a part of or join a specific group of people.  Whether this is a clique, fraternity, sorority or team, being part of a social setting adds a sense of belonging to lives.  To those embraced by their peers, an inner strength is found as a support system is formed.  This is one way that you can increase your strength.

Jesus did not let him [come], but [instead] He said to him, “Go home to your family and tell them all the great things that the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” 20 So he [obeyed and] went away and began to publicly proclaim in Decapolis [the region of the ten Hellenistic cities] all the great things that Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished, Mark 5:19-20.

During the first century, one man selected twelve individuals to become fishers of men.  As Jesus began to heal, perform miracles and spread a message that became known as the gospel, large crowds followed these 13 men daily.  This popularity inspired new converts to become disciples.  After being freed from a legion of demons, a man begs Jesus to accept and receive him as a disciple.  However, God had another plan for this man’s life.  When you go home and tell others all that God has done to transform your life, your spiritual strength grows as faith is shared.

All those who heard him continued to be amazed and said, “Is this not the man who in Jerusalem attacked those who called on this name [of Jesus], and had come here [to Damascus] for the express purpose of bringing them bound [with chains] before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased in strength more and more, and continued to perplex the Jews who lived in Damascus by examining [theological evidence] and proving [with Scripture] that this Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), Acts 9:21-22.

One of the most radical spiritual transformations occurs in Acts 9.  A religious zealot who persecuted apostles as well as overseeing the killing of Stephen, was blinded by a light from heaven.  This sets into motion a series of events that leads Ananias to eventually heal Saul.  As soon as Saul is healed, Ananias baptizes Saul suggesting a spiritual conversion.  Like the man in Mark, Saul spends at least 2 years convincing Jews in Damascus that Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.  Like anything in life, the more you do something, the greater your confidence becomes.  Thus, if you want to increase your strength, make it your ambition to share your faith daily.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Setting the Stage for Healing

Whenever you study history, there are certain elements that tend to get overlooked.  If don’t have the full context of an event, you might miss an important detail.  Context refers to the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.  As I read the book of Acts today, one miniscule verse in the Bible sets the stage for healing.

As he traveled he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him [displaying the glory and majesty of Christ]; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice [from heaven] saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting and oppressing Me?” And Saul said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him [were terrified and] stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, but though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was unable to see for three days, and he neither ate nor drank, Acts 9:3-9.

Previous sermons that I have heard about the healing of Saul who becomes Paul ignored Acts 9:9.  After being blinded from some sort of bright light from heaven, Saul loses his appetite.  From a Hebrew mode of computation, Saul went about 48 hours without food or drink.  As an author and doctor, Luke does not describe Saul’s decision as a fast.  According to one Bible commentary, such a period of entire abstinence from food, in that state of mental absorption and revolution into which he had been so suddenly thrown, is in perfect harmony with known laws and numerous facts.  By falling back upon his Jewish upbringing, Saul’s decision to fast and pray sets the stage for healing.

So Ananias left and entered the house, and he laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came [to Damascus], has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit [in order to proclaim Christ to both Jews and Gentiles].” 18 Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized; 19 and he took some food and was strengthened, Acts 9:17-19.

Based upon his response to being able to see again, Saul gives God the full credit.  Moved by this miracle, Saul asks Ananias to baptize him immediately.  Although Luke doesn’t specify how Saul broke his fast, regaining his vision revigorated this man who previously persecuted the first century church.  Whenever you endure a life altering event, fasting is the most prudent spiritual response to any trial.  Saul’s healing provides hope to readers of the Bible of God’s potential power.  While permanent healing may not be part of God’s will for you, those who wrestle with God in prayer are often surprised by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, if you want to set the stage of healing, don’t forget to fast and pray to the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

Unshakable

In the first century, sometime after 30 AD a Jewish zealot was fearful that the Jesus movement would ruin his religion.  Thus, Saul used the Synagogue of the Freedmen as a pawn to attack the character of a newly appointed apostle.  While Jesus choose to remain silent when brought him before the Council (Sanhedrin, Jewish High Court), Stephen defended his faith.  Just as religious leaders accused Jesus of de-emphasizing some of the ten commandments, Stephen was of charged with committing blasphemy against Moses and God.  Luke records Stephen’s entire defense in Acts 7.

Now when they heard this [accusation and understood its implication], they were cut to the heart, and they began grinding their teeth [in rage] at him, Acts 7:54.

Without any notes, Stephen gives an unshakable defense of his faith.  As if reading the Bible which wasn’t available for another 300 years, Stephen summarizes the Bible from the patriarchs to the crucifixion of Jesus.  The passage above is the response of the Sanhedrin.  These men were convicted and enraged at the same time.  Luke’s choice of words give the appearance of a pack of wolves ready to pounce upon their prey.  Despite this reaction, Stephen didn’t apologize, backdown or retract his previous comments.  Rather, Stephen was prepared to become the first Christian martyr post Jesus.

 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit and led by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory [the great splendor and majesty] of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened up [in welcome] and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they shouted with loud voices, and covered their ears and together rushed at him [considering him guilty of blasphemy], Acts 7:55-57.

On the verge of death, the Holt Spirit fixed Stephen’s mind on his future destiny in heaven.  Just as this council was about to pick up stones to form a firing line, Stephen gazed into heaven.  This vision is verbalized causing Sanhedrin members to take off their outer robe so that each could throw their stone as hard as possible.  Unfazed by this commotion, the Holy Spirit enabled Stephen to drown out the noise.  Instead of focusing on the gory details of death, Luke simply states that Stephen fell asleep, unshakable until the very end of his life.

by Jay Mankus

More Than a Citizen

Citizen Kane is a 1941 American mystery drama film by Orson Welles.  This tale is based upon an influential and wealthy newspaper tycoon inspired by the life of William Randolph Hearst.  There is another citizen who flew under the radar during his life.  John Wanamaker established one of the first department stores in the United States within his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  However, Wanamaker was more than an American merchant.  His life was devoted to civics, politics and religious virtues.

But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves, Luke 22:26.

If you visit downtown Philadelphia, you will find a statue of John Wanamaker outside of city hall. Wanamaker was a descendant of the Lenape Indians, the native tribe of this region.  Despite serving as U.S. Postmaster General, there is only one word engraved on John Wanamaker’s statue: citizen.  While Wanamaker could have been remembered for his business, generosity and political service, his legacy was that of a citizen. Perhaps, serving as secretary of the Philadelphia YMCA from 1857 to 1861 laid a foundation of faith that fueled Wanamaker throughout his life on earth.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Philippians 3:20.

America has radically changed since Wanamaker’s death in December of 1922.  Amazon has replaced his vision for local department stores.  Technology has transformed the way individuals communicate via the internet, phones and social medial.  Despite all of these changes, it’s never too late to become a citizen.  This is more than simply being an inhabitant of a particular town or city.  Rather, the Bible calls individuals to serve others.  Paul takes this one step further possessing dual citizenship, seeking God’s will on earth while eagerly awaiting the afterlife.  While everyone has big dreams and goals in life, devoting yourself to Jesus will inspire you to become a better citizen in your neighborhood.

by Jay Mankus

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