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Tag Archives: heaven

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

 

 

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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

Retaining the Knowledge of God

Retention is the ability to recall, remember and retain information.  Unfortunately, busyness, distractions and hectic schedules tend to weaken one’s ability to pay attention.  Subsequently, whenever I meet someone new, names are often forgotten immediately causing me to ponder, “what’s your name again?”  If I can’t remember the name of someone I just met in person, how is it possible to retain the knowledge about an invisible God?

For [God does not overlook sin and] the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who in their wickedness suppress and stifle the truth, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them [in their inner consciousness], for God made it evident to them, Romans 1:18-19.

The apostle Paul makes two interesting observations in a letter to the church at Rome.  First, the earth, the moon and stars are signs of a higher power, a grand design.  When you add other things such as rainbows, sunsets and tides, no one can say I didn’t know or see God.  Witnessing wonders should gravitate individuals toward the Bible, a history book of life on earth.  Yet, unless you open God’s Word up for yourself, retaining knowledge of God will fade away.

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God for an image [worthless idols] in the shape of mortal man and birds and four-footed animals and reptiles.  24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their own hearts to [sexual] impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them [abandoning them to the degrading power of sin], 25 because [by choice] they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen, Romans 1:22-25.

Second, Paul reveals the consequence of failing to retain the knowledge of God.  The further you fall away from God, the closer you become to exchanging the glory of God for worldly idols.  Those who ignore, neglect or reject God’s advice about life often abandon faith due to the degrading power of sin.  When sin becomes full blown, James 1:13-15, truth is exchanged for a lie.  May these words from Paul instill a sense of urgency to retain the knowledge of God before you are too far gone.

by Jay Mankus

A Spiritual Quake

Beginning in John 14, Jesus reveals specific details about the Spirit of God. Seven words are selected to describe this spiritual entity in verse 16.  Helper, comforter, advocate, intercessor, counselor, strengthener and standby reveal what this promised spiritual guide will be able to do for those who believe. In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit takes on the presence of a violent wind and quake.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place, and suddenly a sound came from heaven like a rushing violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were being distributed [among them], and they rested on each one of them [as each person received the Holy Spirit]. And they were all filled [that is, diffused throughout their being] with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other [btongues (different languages), as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out [clearly and appropriately], Acts 2:1-4.

A first century doctor chooses some interesting words to describe this foreign object. Like an unidentified flying object, the Holy Spirit appears as tongues of fire falling from heaven. Oddly enough, there was no fear or running away of these flames. Rather, apostles, disciples and godly individuals were immediately transformed. In the process, Hooked on Phonics was not necessary as God’s Spirit enabled these believers to communicate to strangers in different languages.

And when they had prayed, the place where they were meeting together was shaken [a sign of God’s presence]; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness and courage, Acts 4:31.

After everything calmed down, Peter stood up to explain what had just happened. Acts 2:38 explains how eyewitnesses of this event can receive this same Spirit.  According to Peter, repenting and baptism must occur before access to the Holy Spirit is granted. Two chapters later Peter and John refuse to stop talking about Jesus. This spiritual stand triggers a spiritual earthquake.  According to Luke, this shaking was merely a sign of God’s presence.  If your life is currently void of any spiritual fruit, perhaps its time to follow in the footsteps of the apostles so that the Holy Spirit will quake to awaken your soul.

by Jay Mankus

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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