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Welcome the Word of God in 2022

If you have children or received any sort of electronic gift for Christmas, you will find instructions enclosed inside. This manual is designed to show you how to put this gift together if not already assembled and how to use it. The best selling book of all time does not contain instructions in the beginning. Rather, the Bible uses history to illustrate how to and how not to live your life. If you’re stuck in a rut or tired of not being able to turn your life around, welcome the Word of God in 2022 to jump start this new year.

So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth], James 1:21-22.

According to the passage above, Jesus’ earthly brother made an important connection between the Bible and this spiritual leader. When Joshua took over for Moses to lead Israel into God’s promised land, one of his first commands was to meditate upon God’s Word daily. If this practice results in the spiritual discipline of Bible Study, these truths will become implanted within your mind. Meanwhile, anyone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness will began to develop a heart for God.

For if anyone only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror; 24 For he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like. 25 But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience), James 1:23-25.

Yet, whenever you read any book, you have two choices. Are you the type of person who loves plowing through book after book eager to discover the next one? Or do you savor each page, stopping to write down notes as you read so you don’t forget an important insight, lesson or point? At the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls his audience to become doers of the Word, not just listeners. Anyone can read the Bible, but those who are convicted to turn their life around will welcome the Word of God in 2022.

by Jay Mankus

Clear the Board

One of my favorite parts of teaching was using a white board. I tried to find as many colors as possible to write down crucial points that I wanted my students to remember. Prior to creating Power Point presentations for all of my lessons, the board contained everything I wanted my students to know for upcoming quizzes and tests. At the end of every class, I cleared the board as students cried out “wait!”

He has not dealt with us after our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us, Psalm 103:10-12.

God had another thing in mind when talking about clearing the board. The beginning of the Old Testament speaks of a God of wrath and punishment for those who disobey. Yet, the Psalmist in the passage above provides a picture of forgiveness. Instead of keeping of list of who have been naughty and who has been nice this year, God clears the board of any wrong you’ve ever committed or done. These transgressions are erased as far as the east is from the west for infinity.

For if you forgive people their trespasses [their [g]reckless and willful sins, [h]leaving them, letting them go, and [i]giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their [j]reckless and willful sins, [k]leaving them, letting them go, and [l]giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses, Matthew 6:14-15.

During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides more of a personal approach to clearing the board. While the Psalmist shares something that sounds too good to be true, Jesus introduces the conditions placed upon forgiveness. If you’re willing to clear the board by forgiving those who have done wrong to you, God will forgive you. However, if you can’t forgive and forget, you won’t be forgiven by God. Therefore, the next time you feel like holding a grudge, let go of any past pain by clearing the board.

by Jay Mankus

Jesus, Joy, and Generosity

Before I became a Christian, there were several individuals that I met which stood out to me. I couldn’t figure out what it was about these people, but each of them possessed an inner peace. One winter night during my sophomore year of high school, a man in a wheel chair gave the keynote address to an audience full of athletes. By the time Skip Wilkins reached the conclusion of his testimony, I wanted what he had inside of his heart, Jesus.

I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it [b]overflows), John 10:9-10.

Joy isn’t a feeling that comes and goes. Rather, joy is a state of mind that is fueled by the hope of eternal life, 1 John 5:13. Yet, joy isn’t a recognizable attribute in every Christian. Your degree of commitment to the Lord will affect what spiritual fruit if any that is naturally displayed every day. Yet, free will causes many college students to partake in their own prodigal like experiences. Subsequently, until human beings hit rock bottom or when common sense returns, joy will be absent.

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope. 14 Personally I am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge and competent to admonish and counsel and instruct one another also, Romans 15:13-14.

The goal of any Christian is to put everything together so that a personal relationship with Jesus yields joy and generosity. The apostle Paul refers to this in the passage above. When anyone reaches this state, an assurance in God spreads hope to your heart. For those that continue their journey with God, joy and peace comes from a spiritual understanding of God’s promises, Philippians 4:6-7. As you draw near to God, may the love of Jesus result in joy and generosity.

by Jay Mankus

The Balance Between Trusting Medication and God for Mental Health

A 2018 article in Psychology Today addresses “The Voice Inside Your Head.” Author and Doctor Steve Taylor talks about his own personal experience as a teenager. This voice, whisper or thought does have a series of explanations. One could be your conscience designed by God to regulate and steer your body toward doing what’s right. The whisper could be advice imparted to you as a child or inner demons that attempt to drag you down. Meanwhile, thoughts can be the contemplation process in action, weighing the pros and cons. Yet, what is the balance between trusting medication and trusting God for your mental health?

But for [a]Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed. And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and depressed and dejected? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it, Genesis 4:5-7.

The passage above unveils the conversion that many struggling believers have with God. When things don’t go your way, you may become envious or jealous of that person you know who seems so blessed by God. This was the dilemma facing Cain as his younger brother had become a successful shepherd. Meanwhile, Cain was working his ass off as a farmer, but to no avail. As Cain became depressed about his lack of success in life, a root of bitterness began to take hold of Cain’s heart. Concerned by what Cain was thinking, God sought to intervene, Unfortunately, it was too late as Cain had already made up his mind, James 1:14-15. There was no medicine available at this time to alter Cain’s mental state.

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and [h][especially wicked] sinners came and sat (reclined) with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and those [preeminently] sinful? 12 But when Jesus heard it, He replied, Those who are strong and well (healthy) have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy [that is, [i]readiness to help those in trouble] and not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. For I came not to call and invite [to repentance] the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin), Matthew 9:10-13.

Following a meal with religious leaders, Jesus began to open up about the balance between trusting medicine and God for your own mental health. Jesus makes a clear distinction between the sick and healthy. The spiritually mature tend to be able to manage whatever conditions arise, learning how to take care of themselves. Meanwhile, it’s the sick who need the help of a doctor. Whether you’re talking about addictions, bad habits or internal cravings, medical physicians will prescribe what needs to happen before a full recovery can be made. Sometimes this condition requires drugs and other circumstances call for discipline. The ultimate goal is to find that ideal balance between trusting God and medicine.

by Jay Mankus

The Guardian of this Galaxy

In 2014, director by James Gunn brought the Guardians of the Galaxy into movie theaters across the country. Seven years later, this superhero film based on the Marvel Comics have added to more films to this series. This team of unlikely superheroes travels the galaxy as arbiters of light. In the middle of the first century, a New Testament was in the process of being written that referred to a spiritual guardian of this galaxy.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten ([d]unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

The disciple who Jesus loved remembers one riveting evening. A Pharisee named Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, curious about the teaching he shared at local synagogues. Perhaps afraid of what his peers might say, Jesus talks to Nicodemus becoming born again. Following a sarcastic remark, Nicodemus stops speaking as the Guardian of this galaxy reveals the reason for his trip to earth.

And Jesus said to him, Today is [[b]Messianic and spiritual] salvation come to [all the members of] this household, since Zacchaeus too is a [real spiritual] son of Abraham; 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:9-10.

Two years later, Jesus became like a rock star as large crowds followed Jesus whenever he went. On one particular day, Jesus was passing by Jericho as lines of eager fans wanted to catch a glimpse of this spiritual guardian. One short man climbed a tree, doing everything in his power to get Jesus’ attention. To Zacchaeus’ surprise, Jesus takes time out of his busy schedule to visit his home. It was during this conversation where Jesus, the Guardian of this galaxy unveils his plan, “to seek and to save that which was lost.”

by Jay Mankus

How Can You Love Your Neighbor When You Hate The Person You’ve Become?

Clive Staples Lewis was an atheist and British writer before becoming a lay theologian. C.S. Lewis once contemplated the concept of loving your neighbor. The following quote reveals his thoughts. You are told to love your neighbor as yourself. How do you love yourself? When I look into my own mind, I find that I do not love myself by thinking myself a dear old chap or having affectionate feelings.” This same dilemma exists today as how can you love your neighbor when many people don’t like the person they’ve become.

Teacher, which [e]kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?] 37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect), Matthew 22:36-37.

Following a series of parables, Jesus is asked by a religious leader a spiritual question. “What’s the most important commandment?” Instead of de-emphasizing the other 9 from the most essential, Jesus divides the commandments into two parts. The first 4 commandments are based upon loving God with the final 6 focused on loving your neighbor. When Christians began to love God with all their hearts, soul and mind, the practice of religion turns into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. 40 These two commandments [f]sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets, Matthew 22:38-40.

When hearts grow cold, love stops naturally flowing out of human beings. If faith is not revived or resuscitated, this lack of love can slowly turn into self hatred for oneself. When sources for love dry up, there is no positivity that bubbles over on to the people you interact with daily. The longer this subtle decay continues, there is no inspiration to love friends and family. The key to loving your neighbor is to tap into the love of God, John 3:16-17. As individuals begin to feel and sense God’s love, desires to pass this on to others is restored. Unfortunately, healing take time. Just hang in there long enough for restoration to ignite your heart with the love of God.

by Jay Mankus

When I Ran out of that Grave

According to the apostle Paul, more than 500 people witnessed Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Sometime before Passion Week, Jesus performed a miracle, raising his good friend Lazarus from the dead. While Jesus was dead for three days, Lazarus had been dead for four days. An eye witness of this amazing feat writes about the stench from Lazarus’ decaying body. Nonetheless, moments later Lazarus ran of this grave to embrace friends and family.

Jesus said, Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of the dead man, exclaimed, But Lord, by this time he [is decaying and] throws off an offensive odor, for he has been dead four days! 40 Jesus said to her, Did I not tell you and [a]promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you would see the glory of God? 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 Yes, I know You always hear and listen to Me, but I have said this on account of and for the benefit of the people standing around, so that they may believe that You did send Me [that You have made Me Your Messenger], John 11:39-42.

In one of the apostle Paul’s letters, he refers to Jesus’ resurrection as swallowing up death, 1 Corinthians 15:53-58. This one event has changed the course of history. While Jewish religious leaders bribed Roman soldiers to claim that Jesus’ disciples stole and hid his body, Matthew 28:12-15, those who saw Jesus ascend into heaven quickly disposed of this lie, Acts 1:8-11. When Jesus cancelled the written code of death, Colossians 2:13-15, this one miracle opened the door for eternal life.

When He had said this, He shouted with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out! 44 And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go, John 11:43-44.

In John 21, Jesus appears before his disciples for a third time in his resurrected body. Yet, the scars of the nails that held Jesus to a cross could be felt by a doubting Thomas. While 99.9% of human beings will never experience or see a modern resurrection, for those who pass away on earth, your grave clothes are temporary. For as soon as Jesus returns for His second coming, the dead will arise, run out of their graves and then lifted up to heaven for eternity.

by Jay Mankus

Fighting a Battle You Can’t Seem to Win

The apostle Paul says the same thing to two different churches. In his letter to Galatia, Paul reveals a troubling reality about human beings that is taboo, often swept under the rug. Meanwhile, Paul takes this premise and applies it to his own personal life within a letter written to the Church at Rome. Based upon Paul’s confession in Romans 7, Paul was fighting a losing battle.

But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God). 17 For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do. 18 But if you are guided (led) by the [Holy] Spirit, you are not subject to the Law, Galatians 5:16-18.

Paul’s initial passage serves as guide for what to expect. The internal war is a battle for human souls as fleshly cravings seek to shut down any supernatural attempts to take over your body. Unless you’re outgoing, this invisible war go on 24 seven, 7 days a week without most people paying attention. Only when evil begins to win or good triumphs will family and friends take notice of your rise or fall.

For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled, bewildered]. I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe [[b]which my moral instinct condemns]. 16 Now if I do [habitually] what is contrary to my desire, [that means that] I acknowledge and agree that the Law is good (morally excellent) and that I take sides with it. 17 However, it is no longer I who do the deed, but the sin [principle] which is at home in me and has possession of me, Romans 7:15-17.

At the end of Romans 7, the apostle Paul comes to a conclusion. Without Jesus via the Holy Spirit working in your life, mankind is doomed. The symptoms of fighting a battle you can’t seem to win are on display daily. Some signs are more obvious than others. Nonetheless, as human beings go through life using trial and error as their guide, reach out to Jesus so you can start winning those battles that you’ve lost in the past.

by Jay Mankus

Beyond the Grave

Kerameikos is the name of the the first organized cemetery in the world. The Kerameikos is located in Athens, Greece which dates back to 1200 Before Christ. Visitors will find this cemetery north of the Acropolis. Kerameikos contains two sections divided by the Wall of Themistocles. This final resting place for the dead reminds the living where they will one day end up.

Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [in death], that you may not grieve [for them] as the rest do who have no hope [beyond the grave], 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

The Bible addresses life beyond the grave. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to two different destinations, Matthew 7:13-14. One road leads to destruction while a less traveled path ends near the gates of heaven. If you haven’t made up your mind, the choice is yours, Deuteronomy 30:15-17. God isn’t forcing you to comply, offering free will as a way to exercise your mind, Revelation 3:20.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud cry of summons, with the shout of an archangel, and with the blast of the trumpet of God. And those who have departed this life in Christ will rise first, 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

The apostle Paul puts another spin on life beyond the grave. Paul illustrates what Jesus’ return will look like, Without any sign of formal warning, Jesus will descend from heaven with a loud cry, followed by an angelic shout before the blast from the trumpet of God sounds the alarm. Anyone who put their faith in Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, before dying will rise from cemetery’s around the world first. Once this has been completed, living Christians will vanish from the earth in twinkling of an eye. In order to celebrate life beyond the grave, make sure you choose Jesus, Acts 4:12.

by Jay Mankus

95% Obedience

Tracy Morgan debuted in a series of Rocket Mortgage advertisements in 2021. These commercials begin with Tracy suggesting that he is pretty sure about a topic that he is not 100% certain about. The purpose of these ads is to illustrate that being certain is better than being unsure. This reminds me of a recent sermon message I heard entitled 95% Obedience. This would be similar to the concept behind the Purge films, allowing disobedience once a year.

You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect, Matthew 5:48.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets a lofty goal, perfection. Unfortunately, this is impossible to accomplish by mere human efforts, Romans 3:10-12. The apostle Paul came to the realization that the weaker you get, this opens the door for people of faith to lean on Jesus like never before, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Despite this chance to grow, Paul writes about a friend named Demas who deserted the ministry due to a love for the world, 2 Timothy 4:10.

Saul said to Samuel, Yes, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag king of Amalek and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took from the spoil sheep and oxen, the chief of the things to be utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal. 22 Samuel said, Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams, 1 Samuel 15:20-22.

For one reason or another, Israel’s first King adopted an 95% Obedience mindset. It’s unclear if arrogance or proud was the root cause of this decision, but Saul began to deviate from Samuel’s instructions. If you pick and choose when you’re going to obey God, this says something about your true allegiance. It’s like telling a significant other, “I’ll be faithful 95% of the year, but do whatever I want a few times a year.” Genuine faith is all in for God, moving all your chips to the center of the table, by trusting in the Lord for the final outcome.

by Jay Mankus

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