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Tag Archives: Jesus

Celebration and Suffering

News of an expecting birth is worthy of a celebration in the form of baby shower.  After labor ushers into this world a new human being, joy consumes families of this infant.  In the years that follow, there are a series of memorable moments, first steps, first words and first day of school.  As new parents work together to raise children, celebrating is often replaced by suffering.  From childhood to adolescence, life only gets more complicated, especially for first time parents.  At some point, celebration fades away as suffering intensifies.  I don’t mean to be Ebenezer Scrooge, but this is a reality of life.

Now it happened that the poor man died and his spirit was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (paradise); and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades (the realm of the dead), being in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom (paradise), Luke 16:22-23.

After sharing the parable of the unjust manager, Jesus transitions into another parable.  Entitled the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus highlights a reason to celebrate and another to fear.  Using a story about a rich and poor man, Jesus uses a hypothetical scenario to detail what heaven and hell is like.  When Lazarus dies, God rewards this poor man with what Jesus calls paradise.  Meanwhile, a self-centered rich man who cared only about himself was sent to hell.  According to Jesus, hell is a place of eternal suffering, able to see those celebrating above, but unable to do anything to help their agony and pain.  This fact should convict and inspire the living to avoid a similar eternal destiny.

And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in severe agony in this flame,’ Luke 16:24.

In the previous chapter, Luke, a well known first century doctor recalls three parables that illustrate God’s grace, love and mercy.  Whether a possession is lost like a coin or pet, heaven celebrates each time a sinner repents.  Angels are programmed to embrace hearts that confess the error of their way.  Meanwhile, even if you are a prodigal son or daughter who has left your family, God will never abandon you.  These stories have been written to urge souls to surrender your life to follow Jesus.  Although this road is narrow as detailed by Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14, any worldly suffering that you might endure is worth this decision.  Therefore, do not ignore the passage listed above so that your eternal destination will be celebrated at your funeral rather than suffer, not knowing whether you are in heaven or hell.

by Jay Mankus

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Get Up While There is Time to Act

The term believe appears 124 times in the King James Bible.  Meanwhile, the word faith appears 521 times in the Good News Bible.  In the context of the Word of God, believe is more than simply agreeing in your mind that something might be true.  Rather, believe involves trusting God so much that you are willing to dedicate your life to Jesus.  Meanwhile, faith refers to the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works,] James 2:14.

One of the barriers that deters believers in God from acting out their faith is mere intellectual assent.  In laymen terms, this is simply head knowledge about God, Jesus and the Bible.  Perhaps, this factor prevented the earthly brother of Jesus, James, from becoming a disciple prior the crucifixion.  After being an eyewitness of Jesus’ resurrection, conviction within James’ own heart instilled a desire to pursue good works as evidence of his new found faith.  James claims that to be a believer isn’t good enough, genuine faith inspires daily action.

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish [spiritually shallow] person, that faith without [good] works is useless? – James 2:20

While listening to a sermon last weekend, I became troubled by my own lack of action.  The passage above is blunt, faith without works is useless.  Another translation states “faith without works is dead.”  You may be able to fool some people, but God isn’t buying inactive Christians.  John the Revelator writes in the book of Revelation that God will spit out lukewarm believers.  In view of this warning, Get up now while there is time to act by making a difference in your spheres of influence.

by Jay Mankus

A Living Sacrifice

In the context of the Bible, the offering up of a sacrifice is regarded as a divine institution.  The book of Leviticus serves as a handbook for sacrifices.  Essentially, God reveals to Moses the necessary steps to atone for any act of disobedience, error in judgment or mistake that is deemed a transgression against God.  These laws have been passed down from generation to generation so that Jewish believers are able to draw near to God.  When the promised Messiah, Jesus, arrives on the scene in the first century, the tradition of taking animals to the temple to be sacrificed was about to become extinct.  Following his life, death and resurrection, Jesus became the first living sacrifice compared to a perfect lamb of God.

“I say to you, whoever declares openly and confesses Me before men [speaking freely of Me as his Lord], the Son of Man also will declare openly and confess him [as one of His own] before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied in the presence of the angels of God, Luke 12:8-9.

The apostle Paul refers to this concept in a letter to the church at Rome.  Instead of dying on a cross, Paul urges first century followers of Christ to present their bodies as a living sacrifice.  The Amplified Version of the Bible provides some clues to what exactly this means.  In quotations, Paul uses the expression “all of yourself.”  This includes your heart, mind and soul.  If you want to do a brief self-evaluation, what actions, behavior and words are setting you apart from the world?  Do people see the love of Jesus within you or have you succumb to peer pressure by conforming to the world?  This is give an overview, a blueprint to start your life long journey as a servant of Christ.

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.

Before He was betrayed by Judas during Passover, Jesus identifies an important trait for those who want to become a living sacrifice.  According to Jesus, you must be proud of your relationship with God.  While you still have to walk the walk as a light for Christ, Jesus expects believers to openly declare their faith.  This may be difficult for the shy or timid, but there are ways to share your faith naturally.  Some may do this through diets, fasting and random acts of kindness.  Others will find creative means via social media to express what they believe.  The key to becoming a living sacrifice is making Jesus your Savior and Lord.  May this blog inspire you to emulate this biblical practice.

by Jay Mankus

Internal Affairs

The concept of internal affairs is an American term that refers to a division of a law enforcement.  This government agency investigates incidents and plausible suspicions of lawbreaking and professional misconduct attributed to officers.  When a cop goes bad, tempted by evil, this department digs deeper to find the source of corruption.  Depending upon who is entangled within this web, investigations continue until the truth is unveiled.

Now after Jesus had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him. He went in [the Pharisee’s home] and reclined at the table [without ceremonially washing His hands]. 38 The Pharisee noticed this and was surprised that Jesus did not first ceremonially wash before the meal, Luke 11:37-38.

During a conversation detailed within the gospel of Luke, Jesus introduces a different kind of internal affairs.  While the Pharisee who invited Jesus over to his home lunch concentrates on following rigid Jewish ceremonial laws, Jesus focuses on engaging those seated around the table.  As Jesus reclines at a table, likely asking open ended questions, a member of the politically correct scolds Jesus for not washing his hands prior to eating.  In the passage below, Jesus doesn’t hold back how he feels.  Rather, Jesus introduces the spiritual meaning to internal affairs, working on the inside out.

But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and plate [as required by tradition]; but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish ones [acting without reflection or intelligence]! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? – Luke 11:39-40.

Pharisees exist today in different forms, individuals who are controlling. manipulative and perfectionists.  You will find these personality types in various avenues of life.  These people focus on material matters, trying to make their department, group and peers look good on the surface.  According to Jesus, these individuals are living in denial, not dealing with the heart of the matter.  Spiritual internal affairs must begin with your heart.  You can put on a happy face for a while, but sooner or later conviction, discontentment and frustration will bring you to your knees.  May you take the advice of Jesus by starting an internal investigation of your soul so that God will create in you a clean heart and restore a steadfast spirit within you, Psalm 51:10.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Not Over Until You Quit

If you have ever coached, played or watched a little league baseball game, you know that no lead in safe.  My oldest son James played in the 11-12 year old championship game two years in a row.  The first game went into extra innings as each team went ahead, lost the lead only to tie the game in their last at bats.  Running out of pitchers, James came on in relief, pitching the 7th and 8th.  Needing one out to close out the game, an error let in the tying run.  In the bottom of the 8th, James was left on the mound while the opposing team celebrated.  One year later, the championship game went into the 9th, but this time his team walked off champions.  I hope these 2 games helped teach my son that it’s not over until you quit.

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith,” Matthew 21:22.

During my sophomore year of college, my ultimate frisbee team reached the finals.  From a talent stand point, my team didn’t deserve to win based upon merit.  Down the entire game, I threw a Hail Mary pass as time was about to expire.  Laying on my back, I watched as my throw sailed over two teammates in the end zone.  However, a gust of wind miraculously keep the frisbee in the air long enough for our fastest player to make a game tying catch.  In overtime, a defensive stop gave us a chance to take our first lead of the game.  While making a catch in the end zone, a 6 foot 3 inch 200 pound defender landed on my arm.  Somehow by the grace of God, I held on seal the victory.  This experience taught me to never give up.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13.

After the crucifixion of Jesus on a cross, one disciple committed suicide, others went into hiding and a few returned to their former trades.  On the eve of Easter Sunday, Jesus’ mother,  Mary Magdalene and other women went to ceremonially prepare Jesus’ body.  Perhaps, some of them went to this cave, tomb hoping for a miracle.  Upon their arrival, an angel of the Lord delivered incredible news.  If someone can rise from the dead, then nothing is impossible.  Thus, these godly women learned a valuable life lesson, its not over until you quit.  Therefore, despite whatever trials you may endure, don’t give up, don’t ever give up.

by Jay Mankus

The Seventh Hand

The oldest preserved measuring rod is a copper-alloy bar discovered by the German Assyriologist Eckhard Unger during an excavation of the ancient city of Nippur.  This device is believed to have been used 2650 years before Christ.  According to the Bible, a cubit is the earliest form of measurement.  A cubit is the forearm length from the tip of the middle finger to the bottom of the elbow.  Thus, the hand was an essential body part necessary to complete the most basic measurement.

And these are the measurements of the altar [of burnt offering] in cubits (the cubit being a [long] cubit [the length of a forearm] and a hand width): the base shall be a cubit [long] and a cubit wide, with its border on its edge all around it of a span [in width]. And this shall be the height of the base of the altar, Ezekiel 43:13.

Within the Old Testament, some of the authors introduce the concept of guardian angels.  The Psalmist describes this spiritual being as one who encamps around those who fear God, Psalm 34:7.  In addition, God commands angels to guard you in all of your ways, Psalm 91:11.  This invisible being is like the hand of God watching over your life.  Yet, the Psalmist does include a requirement, fearing God.  The context of this fear is similar to a holy reverence, respecting the Creator of life on earth.  The degree to which you fear the Lord serves as a measuring stick of your faith.

But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future], John 16:13.

Prior to his death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus refers to a Holy Ghost that will be sent after his departure.  New Testament authors refer to this being as a counselor, sent to guide and direct followers of Christ to a complete understanding of truth.  Like another hand to hold, nudge or tap, God uses angels and the Holy Spirit to seek and to save those who are spiritually lost.  Depending upon your current state of mind, may the presence of guardian angels and God’s Spirit encourage you to hold onto the seventh hand, messengers of God, until the storms in life subside.

by Jay Mankus

 

En Fuego

When Sports Center on ESPN was in its prime, at its height in popularity, the term en fuego was adopted to highlight a player who was on fire.  In other words, this individual had an unbelievable game, rarely missing if at all.  The noun fuego is a volcano in south central Guatemala.  When translated from Spanish into English fuego means fire or flame.  Someone on fire can not be hidden as their light magnifies and pierces through any nearby darkness.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.  Serve the Lord with gladness and delight; Come before His presence with joyful singing, Psalm 100:1-2.

In the passage above, the Psalmist describes someone who is spiritually on fire.  Heat is displayed by developing a heart for thanksgiving.  As servants of God begin to verbalize all that God has done, joy begins to overflow like a volcano ready to erupt.  When the Holy Spirit ignites souls with gladness, faith bubbles and oozes out of individuals naturally.  This delight moves Christians toward God’s presence; then enter the Lord’s courts with praise 7 days a week.

“You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven, Matthew 5:14-16.

During his sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses an analogy to illustrate en fuego Christian life.  Faith is like a candle light, a flame used to expose the darkness around you.  As individuals add fuel to this fire, this light expands to reveal every imperfection in your life.  The closer you get to God, the more God uncovers your flaws.  This reality makes some fearful, overwhelmed by conviction and guilt.  Yet, if you want to be en fuego spiritually, blazing a trail for others to follow, place your trust in Jesus.  When you do, your faith will shine bright like a city on a hill.

by Jay Mankus

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