Today’s featured song comes from across the pond as they say in golf. Matt Redman is now based in Brighton, East Sussex, United Kingdom. Matt is also an active member of Compassionart, a charity founded by fellow musician Martin Smith. I was introduced to Matt by a local Christian radio in Delaware. However, during a recent You Tube search, I was touched by the lyrics of Redman’s song Your Grace Finds Me.
But He gives us more and more grace ([a]power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it), James 4:6.
One of the ways grace finds Christians is through the power of the Holy Spirit. Like the day of Pentecost, grace may arrive unexpectedly or come just when you need to hear some good news. Either way, God gives grace to the humble and those mired in difficult circumstances. As you listen to today’s song, may God’s grace find you in one way or another. Enjoy.
Mirrors provide a reflection to help you remember what you look like. If you look close enough, you’ll begin to see all of your imperfections. While writing a teenager pastor, the apostle Paul opens up about how he sees himself. Despite Paul’s spiritual transformation on the Road to Damascus, Paul saw himself as the greatest sinner of all. Perhaps Paul was haunted by overseeing the death of the apostle Stephen. This is the topics Ben Fuller sings about in his song Who I Am.
The saying is sure and true and worthy of full and universal acceptance, that Christ Jesus (the Messiah) came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost. 16 But I obtained mercy for the reason that in me, as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might show forth and display all His perfect long-suffering and patience for an example to [encourage] those who would thereafter believe on Him for [the gaining of] eternal life, 1 Timothy 1:15-16.
In this age of self-help books, many people try to hide their flaws from others. Yet, Christians are called to higher standards, Matthew 5:48. One of the first images in the attached video, Ben picks up a Bible. According to Hebrews 4:12, this book is living and active. Another passage speaks about how to use and operate the Bible, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. May the lyrics of Who I Am speak to you and encourage you to be honest and open with the Lord.
Jesus saw potential in a first century fisherman. According to Matthew 4:18-20, Peter and his brother Andrew were the first two disciples called by Jesus. While asking his twelve disciples a question, Peter is the first to answer correctly in Matthew 16:15-16. Jesus goes on to refer to Peter as a spiritual rock in Matthew 16:18. Yet, when a crisis arrived, Peter fell just like Adam and Eve in Matthew 16:22-23, a foreshadowing of Peter’s future denial of Jesus in Matthew 26:69-75.
[You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations, 7 So that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed, 1 Peter 1:6-7.
Peter writes about his failure in the today’s passage. These words appear to come from a humbler and mature man of God. Whether Peter learned this from his conversation with Jesus in John 21 following the resurrection or time reflecting upon past mistakes, trials are necessary in order for Christians to grow spiritually. Likewise, Jesus’ earthly brother who doubted his older sibling also speaks to the role that temptations play in your life. This determines where you run when a crisis arrives.
Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. 3 Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. 4 But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.
While attending college at the University of Delaware, I met many Christians who used the phrase “Jesus in my crutch.” As someone who has broken my ankle and leg, I know the uncomfortable feeling of relying on crutches to walk until I got my casts off. Then I abandoned these crutches into a closet until my next accident. Yet, Jesus should be my crutch whether I’m healthy or hurt. The moment my Bible collects dust, or my prayers cease, I’m trusting myself and not God. The next time a crisis arises, may you run to God.
On any given day on earth, 360,000 children are born while 151,600 individuals pass away. As one journey begins, many others come to an end, often without a warning. While Jesus spoke of his destiny of dying on a cross, his disciples didn’t believe him. These 12 men pictured Jesus as an earthly king of the Jews, about to come to power shortly after Palm Sunday. When this didn’t happen as imagined, Peter was devastated, returning to his life as a fisherman, John 21:1-6.
And those who passed by kept reviling Him and reproaching Him abusively in harsh and insolent language, wagging their heads and saying, Aha! You Who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 Now rescue Yourself [from death], coming down from the cross! – Mark 15:29-30.
In Jesus’ final hours on a cross, most of the people who stopped by criticized and mocked him. Luke’s account includes words spoken by the criminals hanging on either side of Jesus. One of these criminals was selfish, wanting Jesus to save himself before saving him as well. The other criminal was humble, feeling unworthy, pointing out that Jesus had done nothing wrong. Touched by this man’s words, Jesus spoke of paradise, a place beyond death.
So also the chief priests, with the scribes, made sport of Him to one another, saying, He rescued others [from death]; Himself He is unable to rescue. 32 Let the Christ (the Messiah), the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see [it] and trust in and rely on Him and adhere to Him! Those who were crucified with Him also reviled and reproached Him [speaking abusively, harshly, and insolently], Mark 15:31-32.
There are 48 verses in the Bible that reference Jesus’ death. Meanwhile, 11 Old Testament prophecies point to Jesus’ necessary journey to death. Due to Adam and Eve’s original sin, the fall of mankind, a second Adam was necessary to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10. This is what the apostle Paul refers to in Romans 5:12-14. This is what the Bible means by Jesus’ journey to the cross to fulfill God’s will. Rejoice in this completed mission, especially since Easter Sunday has now passed.
There are vast degrees of self-righteousness that exist in today’s culture. However, a term that dates back to 1979 is replacing self-righteous; what Christopher Lasch refers to as moral narcissism. This moral superiority is conceived from a sense that one’s beliefs, ideals, and affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person. Moral narcissists can range from obnoxious religious leaders, perfectionists seeking piety to sanctimonious members of the media. If you are not part of an important, powerful or significant group, expect to be looked down upon from one of these individuals who practice symbolism over substance.
He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves and were confident that they were righteous [that they were upright and in right standing with God] and scorned and made nothing of all the rest of men: 10 Two men went up into the temple [enclosure] to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector, Luke 18:9-10.
During a first century conversation, Jesus uses prayer as way to highlight the difference between the humble and self-righteous. In this illustration, Jesus compares a Pharisee to a tax collector. To set the scene, Pharisees were considered devout religious leaders, respected by the Jewish community. Meanwhile, tax collectors were often corrupt, tied with prostitutes at the bottom of the least desired occupations of their day. This background reflects how each approaches the Lord in prayer. As long as moral narcissists express how much they care publicly, following through with their convictions isn’t as important.
The Pharisee took his stand ostentatiously and began to pray thus before and with himself: God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men—extortioners (robbers), swindlers [unrighteous in heart and life], adulterers—or even like this tax collector here. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I gain. 13 But the tax collector, [merely] standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept striking his breast, saying, O God, be favorable (be gracious, be merciful) to me, the especially wicked sinner that I am! – Luke 18:11-13.
Becoming self-righteous blinds individuals from their own spiritual condition. When you think too highly of yourself, subtle sins are ignored and overlooked. Instead of looking inward, moral narcissists compare themselves to lesser human beings as a means to feel better about their life. This mindset is a breeding ground for lukewarm spirits. Anyone who continues down this path are in spiritual danger, drifting closer to hell. The only way to snap out of this state is by acknowledging sin. May this parable serve as a warning to those hindered by a big ego, hypocrisy or smugness.
As a former high school Bible teacher, one of my classes introduced the concept of spiritual gifts. After a short lesson, students took a spiritual gifts test to uncover hidden talents. Unfortunately, the humble and meek scored lower overall than the rest of my classes. Meanwhile, the confident often gave themselves higher marks during this self evaluation and spiritual inventory. Depending upon your mood, your score will fluctuate. This fundamental flaw with these types of tests doesn’t always highlight or reveal your strengths and spiritual weaknesses.
[Let your] love be sincere (a real thing); hate what is evil [loathe all ungodliness, turn in horror from wickedness], but hold fast to that which is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another. 11 Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord, Romans 12:9-11.
The passage above is similar to words written to the Church at Corinth. Instead of using an instruction manual style format, Paul completes his list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. In the following chapter, a disclaimer is added to prevent the blessed and more gifted from boasting. Paul doesn’t hold back suggesting that spiritual gifts and talents are worthless unless accompanied by love, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. To make sure all believers are on the same page, Paul defines biblical love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Paul’s letter to Roman Christians uses a different approach, blending and weaving love with spiritual gifts.
Contribute to the needs of God’s people [sharing in the necessities of the saints]; pursue the practice of hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits, Romans 12:13-16.
Perhaps, while visiting Rome, Paul witnessed some disturbing behavior, far from the example Jesus set during his three year ministry on earth. Thus, Paul felt compelled to use Romans 12 as the Instruction Manual for Spiritual Gifts. Directions include sincerity, loathing anything to do with ungodliness, loving each member of the church like family and maintaining a passion to serve the Lord. In the passage above, it’s almost as if Paul is referencing or quoting parts of the Sermon on the Mount to reinforce the need to love and pray for your enemies. If you follow Paul’s advice in this chapter, you will stand out like a city on a hill and the salt of the earth. May this blog inspire you to identity and fan into flame your spiritual gift(s).
During a 1952 sermon, the reverend Billy Graham provided a prophetic message about the United States of America. Using the passage of 2 Chronicles 7 to serve as his context, Graham compared the Israelites in the Old Testament with America. When families, individuals or nations experience the misfortune of hardship, your degree of character will be revealed. Thus, during times of disaster, drought or death, America is only as strong as her moral and spiritual forces.
If I shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or if I command locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence and plague among My people, 2 Chronicles 7:13.
Ten years following this statement, the Supreme Court removed prayer from public education using the separation of church and state as it’s rationale. One year later, public Bible readings over the morning announcements was also banned from public education. Using each of these cases as predetermining factors, other states followed these rulings to weaken moral and spiritual forces in America. By 1980, atheists, liberals and progressives waged war against the ten commandments, having these civil and ethical standards also removed from public schools.
And My people, who are called by My Name, humble themselves, and pray and seek (crave, require as a necessity) My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land, 2 Chronicles 7:14.
When you turn on cable news, follow social media sites and or listen to talk radio, current events are a by product of these past judicial decisions. Instead of focusing on doom and gloom as society edges closer to the verge of lawlessness, the best course of action is to humble yourself before the Lord. As you do, confess and pray for positive results, that revival will sweep across this land. Billy Graham devoted 58 years of his life, from 1947-2005, traveling the globe to conduct 417 Bible Crusades in 185 countries. This wasn’t done for selfish ambition or self promotion. Rather, Billy Graham understood that America and the world is only as strong as her moral and spiritual forces.
At any period in time, individuals will find themselves in either one of two states, blessed or in need. This status can change at a moments notice, from having a high paying position with great benefits to being unemployed. For those of you have endured the embarrassment of losing your job, this experience can be humbling. Yet, life goes on, with or within out you. The one thing God is eager to see is how will you respond to adversity?
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed, 1 Peter 4:12-13.
The odd thing about life is that sometimes when you think you are the person in need, someone else enters your life to help you realize how blessed you truly are. When I moved off campus in college, I used fast food restaurants as places to study. As long as you bought something to eat, refills were unlimited so I never ran out of caffeine. One morning I went to McDonald’s for breakfast, celebrating the two for two dollar breakfast sandwich deal. After quickly snarfing down my first sausage and egg McMuffin, I noticed a man who appeared to be homeless. Before taking a bite of the second one, conviction consumed my soul. Thirty seconds later, I got up, walked over and said, “this one is for you.”
But we commend ourselves in every way as servants of God: in great endurance, in sufferings, in hardships, in distresses, 2 Corinthians 6:4.
During the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul was diligent in his daily preparations. The passage above reveals the mindset Paul possessed as a follower of Christ. Paul wasn’t caught off guard or surprised like modern naïve Christians. Rather, Paul knew the cost of serving God, making this known to fellow believers in the letter above. To a certain extent, Paul appears to view himself as being blessed by God, always searching for opportunities to help others. Despite criticism, pushback and rumors, Paul was determined to honor God whatever the cost. This example should inspire people today to locate the down trodden, needy and poor; then extend the love of Christ by paying it forward, “this one is for you.”
Blood pressure is measured with two numbers, systolic and diastolic.The systolic number represents the measure of pressure when the heart is contracting. The diastolic refers to when the heart is expanding after the contraction. A normal blood pressure measurement is considered 120 over 80. During a routine physical last week, my initial blood pressure was 170 over 120.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working, James 5:16.
There are 5 major factors which cause blood pressure to escalate: high salt intake, lack of physical activity, obesity, smoking and consuming too much alcohol. Since I don’t drink or smoke, the first three are the reason for my blood pressure boiling out of control. For someone who once possessed only four percent body fat, this recent diagnosis is eye opening and humbling. The hardest part of my road to recovery is having the self-discipline to get back to a somewhat healthy level.
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul, 3 John 1:2.
The earthly brother of Jesus suggests that the first step to healing is confessing that you have a problem. Well, I am Jay Mankus and I have let my body go by eating poorly and failing to exercise on a regular basis. The disciple whom Jesus loved talks about the importance of health in the passage above. If you dive deeper, your overall health impacts your soul. Thus, if your blood pressure begins to boil out of control, it’s hard to stay optimistic. In these troubling times, the only thing I can do is trust Jesus to guide my path toward a healthier diet and life.
As a parent, it’s difficult to have all of your children follow the narrow path described in Matthew 7:13-14 throughout life. On the surface, there isn’t anything attractive, cool or hip in the eyes of the world to stay an extended period of time. While former generations of adults might have coerced, demanded and forced their kids to go to church and youth group, the overall results have been mixed. Good parenting doesn’t always lead to mature teens. Nor does abandonment by one or both parents always produce disobedient souls. Various factors, influences and variables eventually shape young people into the people they become. Regardless of this outcome, it’s never too late to return to Jesus.
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” Luke 15:10.
In a series of stories about getting lost, Jesus uses sheep, a sentimental coin and a rebellious son to illustrate his point. These parables have made Luke 15 one of the most read chapters in the Bible. Although the parable of the lost son gets most of the attention, the end of the lost coin reveals one of God’s most important qualities. Unlike a human father who may turn his back on disobedient children, God the Father is standing on the front porch, waiting for you to come home. Whenever someone decides to return home, there is a celebration in heaven for every repentant sinner. Perhaps, guardians angels play a role in this human U-turn, away from the world and back toward God.
He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything, Luke 15:16.
Regardless of how stubborn a person may be, everyone has a breaking point. The human spirit can only take you so far until souls crack. A first century doctor refers to this point as coming to your senses. For the Jewish prodigal mentioned in the passage above, he was broke and homeless. However, this is only half of the story. This young man spent his inheritance, squandered it on wild living and had become a lowly servant at a pig farm. According to Jewish law, pigs are unclean, unfit to eat. Yet, this son became so desperate for food, he longed to eat the slop fed to these animals. This humbling circumstance opened the door for repentance and a return home. May this blog inspire anyone heading off in the wrong direction to return back to Jesus, 1 John 1:7.