RSS Feed

Tag Archives: heaven

Only One

In the realm of sports, there is only one champion each year. While ties can and do occur in the Olympics with individuals sharing a gold medal, professional sports continue into overtime until a champion is crowned. The longest playoff game in major sports history was a 13-12 World Series Game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros. This October 29th, 2017 game lasted 10-innings, totaling five hours and 17 minutes.

Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears, 2 Samuel 7:22.

As time passes, team secrets may leak out, revealing elements of cheating. Whether this involves stealing signs, the use of banned substances such as steroids or investigations like Spy Gate, champions and championships become tainted. When talent isn’t good enough, the rules are bent, erased or stretched to enhance a team’s chances of winning. In recent history, commissioners of several sports have adjusted the record books to place asterisks next to certain accomplishments. These decisions ultimately leave in doubt who is the best in a sport or who is the only one who didn’t cheat.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5.

In the spiritual realm, no one compares to the God of the Bible. After an encounter with the prophet Nathan, King David comes to the conclusion that there is no one like God. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul clearly states that there is only one mediator between God and man. Throughout history many have claimed to have a secret connection with God, but the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is one of a kind. Unlike any other religious leader, the founder of Christianity ascended into heaven and remains the only living God. While there will always be doubters, skeptics and those unwilling to believe, Jesus remains the only one, Acts 4:12.

by Jay Mankus

A Foretaste of the Blissful Things to Come

In the passage below, the apostle Paul points out that the Holy Spirit isn’t limited to Christians and Jews. Rather, God’s Spirit now extends to Gentiles who believe by entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The term first fruits likely refers to the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit poured out on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:1-4. Meanwhile, the foretaste of things to come is symbolic of the grace of God communicated to all in conversion.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption (our manifestation as God’s sons), Romans 8:23.

One of my former pastors explained grace as God’s riches at Christ’s expense. However, as Paul explains in the passage below, grace is invisible. Thus, as individuals begin to adjust their practices following their conversion from worldly pleasures toward eternal treasures, this transition is rarely smooth. Initial confessions of sin are refreshing, like receiving a shower of grace from heaven. Yet, when you begin to commit the same sinful act day after day, grace is cheapened and hope can be lost.

For in [this] hope we were saved. But hope [the object of] which is seen is not hope. For how can one hope for what he already sees? – Romans 8:24

In a letter to the church of Corinth, Paul pours out his heart during a moment of weakness, 2 Corinthians 12:7-12. Like anyone who is experiencing a spiritual free fall, the conviction of the Holy Spirit is overwhelming. Perhaps, Paul’s plea to God is merely asking the Lord, “why do I have to go through this?” Nonetheless, each Christian goes through a process known as sanctifying grace. This form of grace makes a soul acceptable and justified before God. Despite whatever hardships that you endure, may you recognize the foretaste of grace that will be completed before you meet your creator in heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Forfeiting Your Benefits

Forfeit refers to losing or being deprived of a certain right or privilege. As a former athlete and coach, I was given a victory or two due to another team not being able to field enough players for an official game. Yet, as an intramural coach in college, I was forced to forfeit a few games when a number of my teammates failed to show up on time. The Bible contains a couple of examples where Christians come close to forfeiting the benefits of heaven.

For it is impossible [to restore and bring again to repentance] those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become sharers of the Holy Spirit, And have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come, If they then deviate from the faith and turn away from their allegiance—[it is impossible] to bring them back to repentance, for (because, while, as long as) they nail upon the cross the Son of God afresh [as far as they are concerned] and are holding [Him] up to contempt and shame and public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

The passage above highlights an individual who has become lukewarm. When spiritual passion fades, subtle compromises tend to follow. Since a name is not provided, I’m assuming that more than one first century Christian began to back slide. The author suggests that this fall was partially due to a convoluted view of God’s grace. Instead of showing on contrite heart followed by acts of transformation, many began to abuse and cheapen God’s grace. This passage serves as the first warning to those living on both sides of the spiritual fence.

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 passage above uses imagery from hell to scare wayward believers back on track. The author suggests that some Christians will just squeak into heaven, barely escaping the flames of hell. While many theologians hold the belief, once saved always saved, these two passages in Hebrews reveal different levels of faith. If one of Jesus’ own disciples, Judas Iscariot, ended up in hell, then don’t get too comfortable on earth. Perhaps, this explains Paul’s words to one of his favorite churches, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Philippians 2:12. When you develop a similar mindset, you won’t have to worry about forfeiting the benefits of heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Suffer Now or Suffer Later

Suffer is defined as an experience where you are being subjected to something bad or unpleasant. Affliction, distress, grief, misery, pain, sadness and trauma are byproducts of suffering. While the Bible contains numerous accounts of suffering, the story of Job is unfathomable. Messenger after messenger brought Job news of disaster and tragedy, Job 1:15-19. Raids, a natural disaster and war took away all of his animals and killed his children. A chapter later, God allows Satan to attack Job’s health, filled with boils, similar to an extreme reaction to poison ivy. Despite an urging from his wife, Job did not blame or curse God for his suffering.

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

The apostle Paul provides a biblical perspective of suffering in the passage above. While celebrating hardship is the last thing on my mind, Paul attempts to help his readers see the big picture. Suffering for doing the right thing, standing up for the right causes or walking with Jesus is like earning a spiritual merit badge. Meanwhile, even if you endure unexplained tribulations, the process of suffering builds character, endurance and maturity according to Jesus’ earthly brother, James 1:2-4. Thus, suffering now is better than suffering later in hell. Developing this biblical mindset toward suffering will bring a new perspective.

And the beast was seized and overpowered, and with him the false prophet who in his presence had worked wonders and performed miracles by which he led astray those who had accepted or permitted to be placed upon them the stamp (mark) of the beast and those who paid homage and gave divine honors to his statue. Both of them were hurled alive into the fiery lake that burns and blazes with brimstone, Revelation 19:20. Then the devil who had led them astray [deceiving and seducing them] was hurled into the fiery lake of burning brimstone, where the beast and false prophet were; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (through the ages of the ages), Revelation 20:10.

In the passages above, John shares vivid details of visions of what hell will be like. Revelation 19 suggests that enemies of God will be hurled into a lake of fire alive. The imagery of this suffering is consistent with the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. The wealthy man complains of torment, begging to dip his tongue in cool water. Despite being on fire, death does not occur, resulting in continuous suffering. Meanwhile, Revelation 20 takes this one step further, suffering and torment will occur day after day for ages and ages. After hearing a recent sermon on this topic, I am more convinced than ever to suffer now rather than suffer for eternity.

by Jay Mankus

Going Through Hell

From time to time, I will receive heart breaking news. A car accident ends the life of a teenager, cancer takes another victim or an unforeseen illness takes away a loved one before you have a chance to say goodbye. Anyone who experiences these trials might compare their pain to “going through hell” on earth. Yet, is this an accurate comparison based upon the description of hell in the Bible?

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], Hebrews 10:26.

The word hell is used 54 times in the original King James Bible. If you dig deeper, there are 4 distinct words in the Bible used to describe aspects of hell: Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartaroo. Sheol has two different meanings depending on the context, the grave or pit. Hades refers to the physical location of hell, the abode of the spirits of the dead or the underworld. The final two terms focus on the eternal consequences of hell.

[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 10:27.

Gehenna is a small valley in Jerusalem where some of the kings of Judah in the Old Testament sacrificed their children by fire. A first century doctor uses Gehenna in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus to describe hell as a place of burning, torment, and misery. Meanwhile, Tartaroo refers to the deepest abyss in hell where the wicked suffer eternal punishment for their wicked deeds committed on earth. Upon further review, may the anguish that you suffer on earth draw you into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11, so that you current pain is only temporary and not eternal.

by Jay Mankus

The Power of the WORD

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus first used the term Logos 600 years before Jesus’ birth. Heraclitus was searching for a term to designate the divine reason or plan which coordinates a changing universe. As written in the Greek Lexicon, λογόs refers to a word uttered by a living voice that embodies a concept or idea. This is the term that the disciple whom Jesus loved uses in the opening chapter of his gospel.

So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it, Isaiah 55:11.

John gets right to his point in the opening verse, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” Unlike any other human being, Jesus resided in heaven prior to being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. Subsequently, John introduces the concept of the trinity, three personalities within one supreme God. Thus, the creator of the universe came down to earth to bring light to an ever darkening world as a living WORD.

Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

In his second letter to a teenage pastor, the apostle Paul explains how the Bible was God inspired over several thousand years. The author of Hebrews refers to this book as living and active, like a double edged sword which allows a soldier to move from a defensive to offensive position in one motion. Isaiah, who was sawed in two for his faith, understood the power of God’s Word as described in the passage above. However, the greatest aspect of the Bible is that each time you open these living pages a new message is received, a fresh perspective on life. As you study the Bible in 2020, may you feel and sense the presence of the power of the WORD.

by Jay Mankus

Στόχο: Finding a New Target in 2020

Στόχο is the Greek word for target. When translated into English, this term could apply to aim, destination, goal or landing place. As individuals celebrate New Year’s Eve, minds and thoughts will begin to turn their attention toward a new year. Once all of the celebrations have ended, determined souls will search for a new target in 2020.

And they said to me, The remnant there in the province who escaped exile are in great trouble and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its [fortified] gates are destroyed by fire. When I heard this, I sat down and wept and mourned for days and fasted and prayed [constantly] before the God of heaven, Nehemiah 1:3-4.

Unfortunately, sometimes your future may be blurred, clouded or uncertain due to unforeseen events. Accidents, failing health or trials can prove to be too much for one person to bear. Whenever you experience a devastating, horrific or troubling circumstance, follow in the footsteps of Nehemiah. After receiving news of Jerusalem vulnerability, this man fell to his knees, fasting and praying for a plan to rebuild this wall.

Let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to listen to the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You day and night for the Israelites, Your servants, confessing the sins of the Israelites which we have sinned against You. Yes, I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, statutes, and ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses, Nehemiah 1:6-7.

Before focusing on a solution, Nehemiah acknowledges the sins of Israel which brought this fate upon Jerusalem. Before any new target can be discovered in 2020, everyone needs to get right with God. As prayers are lifted up, hearts unload their pain and minds begin to think clear again, conditions will improve for a new vision to be seen. May the beginning of this year inspire you to pave the way for a new target to be located.

by Jay Mankus

%d bloggers like this: