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Tag Archives: heaven

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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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

Past Due

The phrase past due is an accounting term that refers to past the date on which a payment should have been made.  Those notices appear in the mail or as an email to warn customers of their violation.  This reminder is like a courtesy call, a method to encourage individuals to immediately pay the amount owed.  Yet, money is not the only that is past due.

With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng, Psalm 109:30.

The most obvious past due response is thanks.  While American’s celebrate Thanksgiving every November, I often forget to thank the people who have helped me along the way.  Giving thanks shouldn’t be just an annual event.  Rather, thanksgiving should be a daily practice, slowing down enough to verbally share how much you appreciate your friends, family and co-workers.  Similar to Billy Joel’s song Honesty, thanksgiving can be such a lonely word.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name, Hebrews 13:15.

The second response that is past due is praise.  The Psalmist suggests that human beings were created to praise God, Psalm 150.  Prior to entering into a relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10, I was selfish and self-seeking.  Yet, when Jesus came into my life, I began to see the connection between blessings and God, James 1:17.  The earthly brother of Jesus wrote about this claiming that every good and perfect thing on earth comes down from heaven.  Although money may get the most attention in life, don’t forget to praise and thank God this holiday season.

by Jay Mankus

 

Assurance or Insurance?

The term assurance refers to a positive declaration intended to give confidence.  In a biblical context, an assurance is a promise from God.  Certain passages of the Bible serve as guarantees, a pledge and vow to fulfill the hope for eternal life.  During a private meeting with his disciples, Jesus reveals his plans for the future.  According to the verse below, Jesus left earth following his death to prepare a room in heaven for his followers.  This message of assurance enables modern Christian to live by faith, not by sight.

In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you, John 14:2.

Meanwhile, insurance is a practice or arrangement by which a company or government agency provides a guarantee of compensation for specified loss, damage, illness, or death in return for set payments.  If you want to drive, you need auto insurance.  Under Obama Care, the uninsured were fined, thereby forcing individuals to obtain health insurance even if they didn’t need or want it.  Insurance companies have convinced many Americans to buy more policies than what they actually need.

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, 1 John 5:13.

In preparation for death, attorneys recommend creating a will so that you decide who will receive your remaining assets.  Shrewd insurance agents will offer clients term life insurance, the cheapest yet most beneficial for dying spouses.  However, from a spiritual perspective, the passage above is the only thing you need to know about eternal life.  If you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ before you die, you can know for certain that you will spend eternity in heaven.  This is the only assurance that you need about the afterlife.

by Jay Mankus

For Who; For What?

During a 1995 NFL game, former running back Ricky Watters purposively dropped a pass thrown to him.  Playing for the Philadelphia Eagles at the time, Watters was a safety valve on this play.  If his quarterback felt pressure from the defense, the play design led Watters to the middle of the field, beyond the pass rush.  However, as the play was enfolding, Watters saw that a defensive player primed to hit him hard.  To avoid this massive collusion, Watters simply dropped the ball.  Following the game, reporters gathered around Watters locker, wanting the know the reason for this incomplete pass.  Frustrated by this unwanted attention, Ricky Watters responded, “For who; for what?”

One of the lawyers [an expert in the Mosaic Law] answered Him, “Teacher, by saying this, You insult us too!” 46 But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well, because you weigh men down with burdens [man-made rules, unreasonable requirements] which are hard to bear, and you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers [to lighten the load], Luke 11:45-46.

Looking back on this event from 20 years ago, at least Ricky was honest.  If Watters caught this pass, the play would have gained minimal yardage.  Thus, Watters felt like it was unnecessary to sell himself out on this play.  Getting injured on a play that didn’t amount to much didn’t make sense to a professional athlete trying to protect his body and his career.  While “for who; for what” is a selfish statement, do you blame him for confessing what was truly on his heart?  This comment is no different from first century Pharisees, self-righteous religious leaders who served as the media of their day, regularly pointing out the mistakes of others.  To make matters worse, these Jewish leaders added man made rules to God’s laws.  Corrupted by power given to them by their followers, Pharisees were like modern day politicians who set laws for their country, yet were exempt from that which they expect others to obey.

Woe to you lawyers, because you have taken away the key to knowledge (scriptural truth). You yourselves did not enter, and you held back those who were entering [by your flawed interpretation of God’s word and your man-made tradition],” Luke 11:52.

As people read the Bible for the first time, they might not say “for who; for what?”  Yet, people will silently think, “what’s the point?”  Others will ponder, “why should I believe in something written almost two thousand years ago?”  This skepticism is natural in a world always challenging and questioning authority.  Immediately following Peter’s public confession that Jesus is the promised Messiah, Jesus reveals an oxymoron about life.  “If you want to save your life, you will lose it.  However, if you are willing to give up your life, you will save it.”  This head scratching statement from Mark 8:35-37 unveils the purpose for life on earth.  The who is the creator of the heavens and the earth.  The what is dedicating your life by making an eternal difference with the life that God has given you.  When you surrender your aspirations by committing to serving Jesus Christ as Lord, the Holy Spirit enables you to see the big picture, eternity in heaven.  This choice is not forced, but my prayer is that souls are rejuvenated by the message of this blog.

by Jay Mankus

A Thought That Moved Jesus

The gospel according Luke was written by a first century doctor.  In the book of Acts, also penned by Luke, he becomes a close friend to the apostle Paul.  This relationship gives Luke more credibility as if a physician really needed anymore.  Nonetheless, Luke is the only author who refers to an unnamed group of 72 disciples.  Either Luke was one of these selected servants or he observed their ministry, feeling compelled to detail the role these men played in relation to Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Like the 12 disciples, Jesus divided each into teams of two, preparing cities, towns and villages for future visits by him.  This strategy was adopted by Billy Graham, working with local churches nearby upcoming crusades so that new converts would have a place to develop, grow and mature as Christians.

Nevertheless do not rejoice at this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven,” Luke 10:20.

After delegating special authority to these 72 disciples, Jesus shares one final thought in the passage above.  To a certain extent, Jesus was concerned that some of these men might begin to think quietly, “look what I did.”  This reminder is spoken to help these individuals see the big picture in life.  It’s not about casting out demons or healing the sick.  The most important thing is whether your names are written in the book of life.  As Jesus verbalizes this message, this thought moved him as the words below suggest that Jesus becomes emotional and exuberant.  Perhaps, Jesus  is reminded that one of this own disciples, Judas Iscariot, is not a member of this book.  When something like this hits home, souls discard the meaningless aspects in life and develop a spiritual hunger to wins souls for eternity.

In that very hour He was overjoyed and rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and He said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things [relating to salvation] from the wise and intelligent, and have revealed them to infants [the childlike and untaught]. Yes, Father, for this way was [Your gracious will and choice, and was] well-pleasing in Your sight, Luke 10:21.

According to Luke’s words, the Holy Spirit spoke through Jesus.  In the passage above, Jesus eludes to a child like faith, the importance of maintaining your innocence.  Young children rely on their parents for their basic needs in life.  However, when kids grow up, some pursue education and wisdom rather than God.  Just as liberal college professors can challenge and overturn the values you were raised with, the Holy Spirit is the only source you need to alter your course.  This invisible counselor enables faith driven souls to understand the real meaning and purpose for being born.  During this interaction with 72 disciples, the thought of eternity moved Jesus to open up about this spiritual matter.

by Jay Mankus

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