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Tag Archives: heaven

Half Ass, Half Hearted or All In?

I started working more than 30 years ago. From the very beginning, there was a sense of competition, striving to do your very best each and every day, hoping to receive recognition. Regardless of the backgrounds of my former co-workers, each possessed a conscientious spirit, a desire for promotion and integrity. To move up in a company, you had to step up your game, arriving early, staying late and putting your whole heart into work.

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied., Proverbs 13:4.

More than 3 decades later, I have seen work ethic slowly decline. While teaching high school for 10 years, I began to notice apathy settle in. This lack of zeal for greatness began to influence discipline, focus and study habits. Apparently, this mindset has carried over into the workplace. If you had to separate the masses into three groups, most would fit into one of three categories: half-ass, half-hearted or all in.

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth,” Revelation 3:15-16.

The Bible refers to individuals who are neither hot or cold as lukewarm. One of Jesus’ disciples has a vision of heaven, writing down what he heard and saw. Based upon the passage above, God despises people who are on again and off again. The Lord desires commitment, not dangling on both sides of a fence. Sure, the easy thing to do is take the easy route, pick and choose the quickest path which makes you look better than others. Yet, God only has one acceptable response, all in, Matthew 16:24-25.

by Jay Mankus

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Plea Bargain

I have always been fascinated by America’s justice system. Growing up on shows like the People’s Court, Law and Order and the Practice, I developed a certain set of expectations based upon what I saw on television. While comedies like Night Court sensualized life inside of a courtroom, certain episodes illustrate the plea bargain process. A plea bargain occurs when the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence or an agreement to drop other charges.

“Do not judge and criticize and condemn [others unfairly with an attitude of self-righteous superiority as though assuming the office of a judge], so that you will not be judged [unfairly]. For just as you [hypocritically] judge others [when you are sinful and unrepentant], so will you be judged; and in accordance with your standard of measure [used to pass out judgment], judgment will be measured to you, Matthew 7:1-2.

Modern shows like the Good Wife have scenes from a board room as attorneys go back and forth searching for some sort of settlement out of court. While certain cases were based upon real life situations, my recent experience at traffic court provided a more realistic view of plea bargains. Two prosecutors split over 50 cases, with one overseeing the DUI’s and the other taking care of accident and traffic violations. What I witnessed was more like the game show Let’s Make a Deal with wheeling and dealing.

But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you again, why do you look down on your [believing] brother or regard him with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God [who alone is judge]. 11 For it is written [in Scripture], “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God.” 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God, Romans 14:10-12.

From a biblical perspective, Jesus represents human beings as an attorney of spiritual law. According to the apostle Paul, Colossians 2:13-15, Jesus has already paid your fine for sinning, Romans 3:23, falling short of God’s glory. As the perfect lamb of God, Jesus took our place on the cross, paying the penalty for sin. Thus, there is only one plea bargain necessary to avoid the gates of hell. Acts 4:12 sums this up well, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among people by which we must be saved [for God has provided the world no alternative for salvation].” My prayer is that Jesus becomes your plea for help in this life.

by Jay Mankus

Heaven is Not for Everyone

I am always cautious when I try to tackle an unpopular topic. Yet, whenever I attend a funeral where a member of the clergy assumes or suggests that heaven is for everyone, I cringe. While God is the ultimate judge, a person’s witness typically leaves behind a trail of bread crumbs for friends and family to follow. Depending upon actions, deeds and faith demonstrated, you will find assurance, doubt or uncertainty for the eternal fate of those whom you love.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13-14.

Jesus comments on two passages about heaven. The first focuses on the percentage of individuals that will end up in heaven or hell. The second details a necessary requirement to be forgiven by God. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush, blunt to his audience. You have two choices, follow the narrow path that leads to everlasting life or follow the crowd down the road toward eternal loss.

Then He opened their minds to [help them] understand the Scriptures, 46 and said, “And so it is written, that the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed) would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance [necessary] for forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things, Luke 24:45-48.

One of Jesus’ final words before acsending into heaven focuses on how New Testament Jews can find forgiveness through repentance. Biblical repentance contains two requisites, turn away from evil and turn back toward God. If one of these two steps is skipped, true repentance is not achieved. Thus, if anyone wants to approach death with eternal security, 1 John 5:13, repentance needs to become a daily practice. While I hate to be a Debbie downer, the Bible clearly states heaven is not for everyone.

by Jay Mankus

Reunited

While sitting in the back seat of my parents’ car growing up, the radio was set to a local soft rock station. During summer vacations, I often listened to the American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. One of the songs that I remember listening to was Reunited by Peaches and Herb. This R&B classic sings about a couple who comes to their senses, deciding to get back together. Like anything in life, sometimes you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.

They got up that very hour and went back to Jerusalem, and found the eleven [apostles] gathered together and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon [Peter]!” – Luke 24:33-34

Following a post-resurrection conversation with Jesus, Peter was inspired to reunite with the rest of the disciples. Although Judas Iscariot was not present, committing suicide due to guilt from betraying Jesus, eleven men got together in Jerusalem. While musicians who reunite often go back on tour or craft a new album, the disciples were waiting on instructions, unsure of what to do. Prior to his ascension into heaven, Jesus has one last meeting with these leaders to discuss God’s plan for reuniting believers.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted [that it was really He]. 18 Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:16-19.

This event is known as the Great Commission, a blue print that future apostles follow throughout the book of Acts. The opening lyrics from a Kurt Kaiser song sums up the passage above. “It only takes a spark to keep a fire going. And so all those around will warm up to its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experience it, you spread His love to everyone, you want to pass it on.” Just as the disciples passed on Jesus’ message to apostles, modern Christians are encouraged to do the same. The only way to be reunited in heaven with those whom you love on earth is by fulfilling the Great Commission today.

by Jay Mankus

Perplexed and Wondering

A week doesn’t go by without experiencing, hearing or witnessing something that baffles my mind. Certain events are puzzling, hard to grasp the meaning, purpose or reason for God allowing these things to occur. Without counsel, a friend or insight from a mentor, you might be left in the dark. Days may turn into weeks, months and years before clarity arrives.

While they were perplexed and wondering about this, suddenly, two men in dazzling clothing stood near them; Luke 24:4.

A group of woman were on their way to finish preparing Jesus’ body for his permanent resting place. Upon arriving, the door to his grave, a boulder protecting a cave entrance was rolled away. After going inside, Jesus’ body was gone, missing. Perplexed and wondering, these women were visited by two angels who appeared in dazzling clothes from heaven. At their greatest need for understanding, the Lord provided a message of hope.

Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant and boundless mercy has caused us to be born again [that is, to be reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose] to an ever-living hope and confident assurance through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1 Peter 1:3.

The resurrection gave first century individuals who let Jesus down prior to his death a second chance. This included Peter who denied knowing Jesus during his arrest and trial. While Jesus’ acts, miracles and words perplexed and caused his own disciples to wonder why, dying and rising from the dead fulfilled biblical prophecy. Thus, even though you may still have numerous questions you want to be answered, the resurrection of Jesus provides eternal security for those who believe this event occurred.

by Jay Mankus

Stop Blocking Miracles

As a novice student, when high school teachers and college professors started to repeat something, my classmates began to write this information down in their notebooks. Others instructors would be more obvious, coughing in jest or implying, “hum… this sounds like a good test question.” However, when the son of God, Jesus, repeats the same message three chapters later, you might want to take this to heart. In the verses below, Jesus takes two different scenarios that illustrate how and why individuals can block miracles from occurring.

“Again I say to you, that if two believers on earth agree [that is, are of one mind, in harmony] about anything that they ask [within the will of God], it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in My name [meeting together as My followers], I am there among them,” Matthew 18:19-20.

This first passage is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible. A month doesn’t go by without someone in church, a person praying or a pastor on television who names and claims this promise. However, Jesus places two escape clauses in verse 19. The first refers to harmony within the body of Christ. God wants members of a congregation to be on the same page, united in the decisions that are made. The second clause mentions the will of God. Prayers that exclude, ignore or go outside the will of God will be rejected. Thus, whenever discord or selfishness exists, potential miracles will be blocked and nullified.

Jesus replied to them, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, if you have faith [personal trust and confidence in Me] and do not doubt or allow yourself to be drawn in two directions, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen [if God wills it]. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, believing, you will receive,” Matthew 21:21-22.

The second disclaimer is based upon faith. Despite witnessing miracle after miracle, the disciples struggled to place their complete confidence and trust in Jesus. When a fig tree isn’t bearing fruit in season, Jesus curses it, withering this tree immediately. Using this as a teachable moment, Jesus refers to a mountain blocking your view from God’s full potential. Thus, the key element is a persistent faith that believes you will receive what you ask for in prayer. When this is missing, a lack of faith blocks potential miracles from occurring. Therefore, if you want to determine what’s keeping you from ascending to your full potential, you may be out of alignment with God’s will. Or traces of doubt are holding back future miracles. May this blog help you gain understanding into what God truly desires.

by Jay Mankus

The Prayer of Moses

You can learn a lot about someone by the content of their prayers. Over my years of attending Bible studies, sharing groups and Sunday School classes, its easy to decipher who has a quality prayer life for those who casually pray. The only known Psalm written by Moses begins with a brief history of the Old Testament. Like any introduction, Moses is attempting to get God’s attention by acknowledging who the Lord is and what He has done.

Lord, You have been our dwelling place [our refuge, our sanctuary, our stability] in all generations. Before the mountains were born or before You had given birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are [the eternal] God. You turn man back to dust,
And say, “Return [to the earth], O children of [mortal] men!” For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night, Psalm 90:1-4.

During Moses’ first conversation with God, Exodus 4:10-13, readers discover that Moses was born with a severe speech impediment. As someone who has endured a similar fate early in my life, speaking out loud makes a stutterer nervous. Speaking directly to the Creator of heaven and earth probably exasperated Moses’ condition. Instead of believing that God could heal his speech, Moses rejects God’s initial offer to be the Lord’s spokesman.

Who understands the power of Your anger? [Who connects this brevity of life among us with Your judgment of sin?] And Your wrath, [who connects it] with the [reverent] fear that is due You? So teach us to number our days, that we may cultivate and bring to You a heart of wisdom. Turn, O Lord [from Your fierce anger]; how long will it be? Be compassionate toward Your servants—revoke Your sentence, Psalm 90:11-13.

Based upon the words of Psalm 90, Moses wrote this chapter after being healed of stuttering. The passage above sounds like someone who is mature, reflecting back over the course of his life. There will be moments in time when you won’t understand why God is doing this or that. Nonetheless, Moses asks the Lord for wisdom and the ability to seize each day God gives you on earth. While all have fallen short of God’s glory, Moses pleads with God to lean on the side of compassion. May this ancient prayer cultivate your faith as you reflect upon God’s Word.

by Jay Mankus

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