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Assisting God Behind the Scenes

An assist in basketball is a pass to a teammate that directly leads to a basket or field goal. While the exact origin of an assist in this sport is unknown, the most common assumption is that it came from earlier times when pay phones were available across the US. Giving a stranger a dime to complete their call derived the term assist. From a spiritual perspective, angels regularly assist God behind the scenes. Sometimes in the form of a guardian angel or nudge you in the right direction.

Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your dwelling place, 10 There shall no evil befall you, nor any plague or calamity come near your tent. 11 For He will give His angels [especial] charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways [of obedience and service]. 12 They shall bear you up on their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone, Psalm 91:9-12.

The Psalmist makes it clear about the role angels play in life. As Christians learn to draw near to God, it’s like going on a camping trip. If you are the kind of person who enjoys making a fire, as your relationship with God strengthens, the presence of the Holy Spirit is sensed daily. Meanwhile, behind the scenes the Lord sends angels to accompany, defend and preserve you as your walk with Jesus. This is the kind of assistance that angels provide.

Are not the angels all ministering spirits (servants) sent out in the service [of God for the assistance] of those who are to inherit salvation? – Hebrews 1:14

In the New Testament, one author devotes an entire chapter to the relationship between angels and Jesus. At the conclusion of this section, the purpose of angels is revealed. Angels are ministering spirits, servants sent out to assist God. The ultimate goal of angels is to lead human heart toward eternity in heaven. One of Jesus’ parables illustrate the celebration that goes on in heaven when a lost sheep that has been lost is found and brought home, Luke 15:1-7.

Overcoming an Emotionally Draining Job

Every adult has experienced the unfortunate reality of having an emotionally draining job. This exhaustion may come from a stressful work atmosphere, dealing with difficult co-workers, the physical wearing and tear on your body or long 60 hour work weeks. Some of you may have to endure one of these factors while others of you face all four day after day and week after week. To those of you in a leadership role, the Bible does provide a plan to overcome an emotionally draining job.

And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices [to offer] to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God. 13 Next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, What is this that you do for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening? – Exodus 18:12-14

Prior to a visit from his father in law, Moses worked sun up to sun down. Instead of developing a justice system, Moses tried to be Judge Judy, head of the People’s Court and a Supreme Court justice. After observing for a couple of days, Jethro realized that Moses had become a lone ranger, trying to do everything by himself. Jethro’s solution to overcoming an emotionally draining job was to adopt the art of delegation. Sometimes you have to communicate to your boss, “I can’t do everything.”

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, The thing that you are doing is not good. 18 You will surely wear out both yourself and this people with you, for the thing is too heavy for you; you are not able to perform it all by yourself. 19 Listen now to [me]; I will counsel you, and God will be with you. You shall represent the people before God, bringing their cases and causes to Him, 20 Teaching them the decrees and laws, showing them the way they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover, you shall choose able men from all the people—God-fearing men of truth who hate unjust gain—and place them over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, to be their rulers, Exodus 18:17-21.

Similar to the process set up by Jesus prior to his ascension into heaven, the Great Commission is a form of delegation to spread the Gospel throughout the world, Mark 16:14-20. King Solomon writes about the importance of relationships in Proverbs 27:17. When two individuals agree to hold one another accountable, positive criticism sharpens you. Yet, when you are emotionally run down, a friend can become a sounding board and a source of encouragement to give you the strength to carry on.

by Jay Mankus

The Last Temptation

The Last Temptation of Christ was a controversial film directed by Martin Scorsese. This 1988 movie deviated from the New Testament Scripture Hebrews 4:14-16, using a what if concept to imply Jesus gave into a final temptation. Yet, one of Jesus’ disciples tells the real story in the passage below. The first temptation focuses on physical desires. The second temptation is like a dare given by teenage friends that tests human minds. However, it’s the last temptation which most people can relate to, exchanging eternity in heaven for temporary control and power on earth.

Then Jesus was led (guided) by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness (desert) to be tempted (tested and tried) by the devil. And He went without food for forty days and forty nights, and later He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, If You are God’s Son, command these stones to be made [[a]loaves of] bread. But He replied, It has been written, Man shall not live and be upheld and sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God, Matthew 4:1-4.

This is not to diminish the first two temptations as many human beings struggle with food and beverage addictions. Nor I am overlooking anorexia and bulimia that has a way of paralyzing countless souls. Trying to prove oneself often leads to mind games similar to that which the serpent played with Adam and Eve. Yet, the idea of possessing control and power over others is too good to pass up. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at all the life long congress men and women who will do whatever it takes to get re-elected no matter what the cost or consequences.

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and placed Him on [b]a turret (pinnacle, [c]gable) of the temple [d]sanctuary. And he said to Him, If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, He will give His angels charge over you, and they will bear you up on their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone. Jesus said to him, [e]On the other hand, it is written also, You shall not tempt, [f]test thoroughly, or [g]try exceedingly the Lord your God, Matthew 4:5-7.

Using his charm as a former archangel, the devil takes Jesus to the highest mountain in the Middle East. Despite being tired and hungry from fasting for 40 days, Jesus doesn’t fall for this attention seeking ploy. Remembering the first commandment written down my Moses, Jesus doesn’t waste time, quickly rejecting the Devil’s final temptation. Unfortunately, many human beings end up like Eve in the Garden of Eden, considering the possibilities of the Tree of Knowledge. There is nothing new about New Age philosophies except for the people pushing them.

Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory (the splendor, magnificence, preeminence, and excellence) of them. And he said to Him, These things, all taken together, I will give You, if You will prostrate Yourself before me and do homage and worship me. 10 Then Jesus said to him, Begone, Satan! For it has been written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him alone shall you serve. 11 Then the devil departed from Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him, Matthew 4:8-11.

This leads me to the question: why are so many Christians unable to resist temptation? What causes the masses to cave to forbidden fruit by indulging in temporary pleasures? Is this more a byproduct of a hollow faith or merely a sign of spiritual immaturity? Whatever the reason, Christians need to be more like the individual in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12. Perhaps it’s time to look at the person in the mirror to see who you have really become. In the meantime, stopping looking for excuses to keep sinning by start scanning the room for an escape route, the way out of temptation, 1 Corinthians 10:11-13.

by Jay Mankus

When I Ran out of that Grave

According to the apostle Paul, more than 500 people witnessed Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Sometime before Passion Week, Jesus performed a miracle, raising his good friend Lazarus from the dead. While Jesus was dead for three days, Lazarus had been dead for four days. An eye witness of this amazing feat writes about the stench from Lazarus’ decaying body. Nonetheless, moments later Lazarus ran of this grave to embrace friends and family.

Jesus said, Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of the dead man, exclaimed, But Lord, by this time he [is decaying and] throws off an offensive odor, for he has been dead four days! 40 Jesus said to her, Did I not tell you and [a]promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you would see the glory of God? 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 Yes, I know You always hear and listen to Me, but I have said this on account of and for the benefit of the people standing around, so that they may believe that You did send Me [that You have made Me Your Messenger], John 11:39-42.

In one of the apostle Paul’s letters, he refers to Jesus’ resurrection as swallowing up death, 1 Corinthians 15:53-58. This one event has changed the course of history. While Jewish religious leaders bribed Roman soldiers to claim that Jesus’ disciples stole and hid his body, Matthew 28:12-15, those who saw Jesus ascend into heaven quickly disposed of this lie, Acts 1:8-11. When Jesus cancelled the written code of death, Colossians 2:13-15, this one miracle opened the door for eternal life.

When He had said this, He shouted with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out! 44 And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go, John 11:43-44.

In John 21, Jesus appears before his disciples for a third time in his resurrected body. Yet, the scars of the nails that held Jesus to a cross could be felt by a doubting Thomas. While 99.9% of human beings will never experience or see a modern resurrection, for those who pass away on earth, your grave clothes are temporary. For as soon as Jesus returns for His second coming, the dead will arise, run out of their graves and then lifted up to heaven for eternity.

by Jay Mankus

Prepare Yourself for Perilous Times

Eschatology comes from the Greek word ἔσχατος. When translated into English, éschatos refers to the part of theology concerned with the final events of history. One of the Gospel authors devotes an entire chapter to the signs of the times. In the passage below, Matthew highlights specific events to look for as Jesus reflect upon what the end of times will resemble. This chapter serves as a map to prepare readers of the Bible for perilous times.

While He was seated on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately and said, Tell us, when will this take place, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end (the completion, the consummation) of the age? Jesus answered them, Be careful that no one misleads you [deceiving you and leading you into error]. For many will come in (on the strength of) My name [appropriating the name which belongs to Me], saying, I am the Christ (the Messiah), and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened or troubled, for this must take place, but the end is not yet, Matthew 24:3-6.

The initial sign of the times is wars and rumors of wars. This is followed by famines and earthquakes. The imagery Jesus chooses to describe these perilous times like the pain a woman endures during the child bearing process. The book of Daniel in the Old Testament and Revelation in the New Testament refer to specific events that set in motion the arrival of the anti-Christ. If you’re not taken up into heaven by the Rapture, Jesus’ second coming, these perilous times will be beyond what most individuals can handle.

But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear], 2 Timothy 3:1.

In view of what lies ahead, I am reminded of something that Jesus says during the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. In the middle of this famous speech, Jesus provides advice to prepare yourself for perilous times. Matthew 6:34 highlights that each day has enough trouble of it’s own. Therefore, don’t be overwhelmed by the circumstances that is beyond your control. Rather, take one day at a time, with the perspective that each new day is a gift from God.

by Jay Mankus

The Adapted Truth

Adaptation is the biological mechanism by which organisms adjust to new environments or changes in their current environment. This evolutionary theory was discussed by scientists prior to the 1800’s, but it was Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace who developed the theory of natural selection. As time presses on and what human beings once thought was right has been altered, an adapted truth is necessary to combine the past with the present.

Hold fast and follow the pattern of wholesome and sound teaching which you have heard from me, in [all] the faith and love which are [for us] in Christ Jesus, 2 Timothy 1:13.

As a child, I assumed I was a Christian. Growing up in a Romans Catholic Church, I was taught if I followed the Ten Commandments and practiced the Holy Sacraments, I would go to heaven. After attending a Methodist Youth Group in high school, I was encouraged to study the Bible. The more that I read I began to realize Christianity is a relationship, not a religious practice. This new adapted truth forced me to evolve spiritually.

Guard and keep [with the greatest care] the precious and excellently adapted [Truth] which has been entrusted [to you], by the [help of the] Holy Spirit Who makes His home in us, 2 Timothy 1:14.

Whether new nuggets of faith are unveiled, Romans 10:17, or you’re exposed to a new teaching that helps connect all the dots, you have to be open to change. During visits to Thessalonica and Berea in Acts 17, the apostle Paul began to recognize the shrewd from the silly. When you test everything you hear with God’s Word, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, you may be forced to a new adapted truth so that what you believe aligns with the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

Eternal Salvation

The concept of eternity dates back to the 14th century derived from the French word eternité. However, the Latin expression aeternitatem first appeared in the 12th century. This term comes from aeternitas and aeternus which refers to enduring and permanent. However, one of Jesus’ disciples spoke of an eternal salvation which could be secured before you die, 1 John 5:11-13. John speaks with full assurance and confidence of this fact.

Nevertheless [the sentence put upon women of pain in motherhood does not hinder their souls’ salvation, and] they will be saved [eternally] if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control, [saved indeed] through the Childbearing or by the birth of the divine Child, 1 Timothy 2:15.

Meanwhile, in the passage above the apostle Paul refers to the curse of Eve passed down upon all women. According to Genesis 3:16, the pain of childbearing will increase with every passing generation. When I was a high school Bible teacher, one of our guest speakers was a Christian archeologist. Through a rare collection of fossils, this scientist revealed that Eve’s hips were extremely large; gradually becoming smaller with each passing generation.

For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward]. 27 [There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God], Hebrews 10:26-27.

According to Paul, the pain of motherhood does not hinder, prevent or keep a woman from eternal salvation. Nonetheless, the author of Hebrews does address why the faith of some is lost. Although addiction is not mentioned directly, bad habits open the door for sins to be repeated over and over again. In the parable of the Sower, Jesus hints that Satan can snatch away the message of salvation, Matthew 13:19. While most biblical scholars believe that salvation can’t be lost, the goal of any human being is to live forever up in heaven wherever this place may be located.

by Jay Mankus

Just Don’t Read…Get the Know the Shepherd

The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters. He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake, Psalm 23:1-3.

Sheep are mentioned more than 500 in the Bible, more than any other animal.  Sheep were important to nomads and the agricultural life of Hebrews in the Old Testament.  Whether you’re talking about the 23rd Psalm or the Parable of the Lost Sheep, this animal is used to symbolize the relationship between God and his followers.  As you read the beginning of Luke 15, Jesus is like a shepherd who is willing to leave behind the faithful sheep to find the one who has wandered off.

Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over, Psalm 23:4-5.

Unfortunately, stubborn individuals are resistant to change. While people may experience moments of guilt from within their conscience to stop what they are doing, the disobedient tend to press on, full steam ahead. Regardless of how pure in heart that you may be, everyone dabbles in rebellion, especially when you come across a rule that doesn’t make any sense. However, until the Biblical Shepherd steers you in the right direction, you’ll do lots of wandering until you find your way home.

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). 11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep, John 10:10-11.

The disciple whom Jesus loved compared his spiritual leader to a good shepherd. Instead referring to an actual shepherd tending after his sheep, Jesus served as a father figure to shelter human beings from the Devil. While the attacks of this spiritual enemy have continued long after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, just don’t read the Bible, get to know the Good Shepherd, aka God’s one and only son Jesus Christ. As you open the Bible, the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see what it takes to live the abundant life that Jesus promised in the passage above.

by Jay Mankus

The Discipline of Believers

As a former teacher at a Christian school, every human being needs discipline. Upon my first day in a classroom, I made the assumption that these kids were all raised in Christian home. When I observed unruly behavior day after day, I was forced to alter my classroom management style. As a rookie in the area of discipline, I struggled to maintain control and order in my first semester. This painful experience led me to understand the need for disciplining believers.

For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward]. 27 [There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God], Hebrews 10:26-27.

The author of Hebrews addresses individuals who constantly cheapened God’s grace. There was an ungodly belief that spread throughout the first century that the more you sinned, the more God would pour out his grace upon you. This topic is first brought up in Hebrews 6:4-6, warning careless believers of the dangerous path they are going down. Four chapters later, the passage above serves as a grave warning for anyone heading toward the gates of hell. Perhaps this in the Bible’s version of scaring sinners straight back to the narrow path, Matthew 7:13-14.

And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes. You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline? – Hebrews 12:5-7

Following the chapter known as the Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11, the author returns to the reason why discipline is necessary. As you go through life, compared to a marathon, certain aspects will where you down over time. Subsequently, when you find yourself falling away from God, correction and discipline is a form of love. As I once taught to my junior high students, biblical boundaries are designed to keep you close to God while keeping dangers and evil out. While no one like to be disciplined in public, this is a necessary for believers to get back on the narrow road which leads to heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Beyond the Grave

Kerameikos is the name of the the first organized cemetery in the world. The Kerameikos is located in Athens, Greece which dates back to 1200 Before Christ. Visitors will find this cemetery north of the Acropolis. Kerameikos contains two sections divided by the Wall of Themistocles. This final resting place for the dead reminds the living where they will one day end up.

Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [in death], that you may not grieve [for them] as the rest do who have no hope [beyond the grave], 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

The Bible addresses life beyond the grave. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to two different destinations, Matthew 7:13-14. One road leads to destruction while a less traveled path ends near the gates of heaven. If you haven’t made up your mind, the choice is yours, Deuteronomy 30:15-17. God isn’t forcing you to comply, offering free will as a way to exercise your mind, Revelation 3:20.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud cry of summons, with the shout of an archangel, and with the blast of the trumpet of God. And those who have departed this life in Christ will rise first, 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

The apostle Paul puts another spin on life beyond the grave. Paul illustrates what Jesus’ return will look like, Without any sign of formal warning, Jesus will descend from heaven with a loud cry, followed by an angelic shout before the blast from the trumpet of God sounds the alarm. Anyone who put their faith in Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, before dying will rise from cemetery’s around the world first. Once this has been completed, living Christians will vanish from the earth in twinkling of an eye. In order to celebrate life beyond the grave, make sure you choose Jesus, Acts 4:12.

by Jay Mankus

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