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Tag Archives: Jesus

Running Like the Devil is Chasing You

Depending upon the time of day, I like to listen to the radio while I write.  During today’s news update, there were two murder suicide’s featured in the area.  After watching an episode of Lost Season 1 last night, one scene came to my mind, a conversation between Locke (Terry O’Quinn) and Jack (Matthew Fox).  Locke suggested that some people look like the Devil is chasing them.  In the case of these four victims, they didn’t run fast enough to avoid death.

After [Judas had taken] the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly [without delay],” John 13:27.

In the passage above, Jesus makes the statement Satan entered Judas Iscariot during the last supper.  Bible commentaries suggest this possession accelerated Judas’ desire to betray Jesus.  Knowing what was about to come, Jesus exhorts Judas to finish his plan without delay.  Unfortunately, the moment individuals think things through in their mind, the act of sin quickly follows.  By this time, it’s often too late to turn back.  Using the analogy above, the Devil has caught you from behind and won’t let go.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God” [for temptation does not originate from God, but from our own flaws]; for God cannot be tempted by [what is] evil, and He Himself tempts no one. 14 But each one is tempted when he is dragged away, enticed and baited [to commit sin] by his own [worldly] desire (lust, passion). 15 Then when the illicit desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin has run its course, it gives birth to death, James 1:13-15.

Temptation is like a classic car chase scene from a movie.  Initially, the good character is in the clear, far from harm.  However, as this pursuit continues chaos, distractions and traffic place the bad guy within striking distance.  Unless you flee from evil, minds will eventually embrace earthly desires.  Thus, the more you stare at temptation, it’s only a matter of time before the Devil grabs ahold of your life.  Therefore, be alert, on guard and keep watch so you stay well out of the Devil’s reach.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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I Can’t Help Myself

My father was born in Lithuania.  As immigrants from certain Europeans countries began to migrate to the United States, stereotypes began to develop.  Whether it was the era, how my dad was raised or specific mannerisms, my father tended to be stoic unless he was angry.  Meanwhile, my mom who grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania wasn’t afraid to wear her emotions on her sleeve.  Like any child, I exhibit a combination of qualities from each of my parents.  Nonetheless, whenever my heart is moved or touched by something special, I can’t help myself, easily brought to tears.

As He entered a village, He was met by ten lepers who stood at a distance; 13 and they raised their voices and called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were [miraculously] healed and made clean, Luke 17:12-14.

During the first century, Jews and Samaritans were enemies as hatred and resentment spilled over from the past.  This tension began when Israel was divided into two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judea in the south.  The north whose second capital was relocated upon a hillside in Samaria often did what was right in their own eyes.  The southern kingdom remained more true to God as some kings reminded citizens of their spiritual heritage.  The main issues between Jews and Samaritans began during 722 B.C. when Assyria conquered Israel and took most of its people into captivity.  The byproduct of this siege led to intermarriages between Gentiles and Israelites.  Thus, Samaritans earned the reputation of being only half Jewish, labeled and ridiculed for centuries.

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, glorifying and praising and honoring God with a loud voice; 16 and he lay face downward at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him [over and over]. He was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten [of you] cleansed? Where are the [other] nine? 18 Was there no one found to return and to give thanks and praise to God, except this foreigner?” – Luke 17:15-18

Recognizing this portion in history, Jesus is shocked by how little appreciation is shown to God by 9 Jewish lepers.  On the other hand, the Samaritan leper is overwhelmed after being healed.  According to a first century doctor, this man couldn’t help himself, praising God over and over again.  Sometimes in life, stereotypes influence how people act, behave and interact with others.  Yet, when you slow down and look around to see the numerous minor miracles in your life, you too can model the thanksgiving demonstrated by this Samaritan leper.  May the example of this first century man inspire you to develop a new outlook on life in 2019.

by Jay Mankus

A Passport to Heaven

Credentials are defined as evidence of authority, status, and rights. Anyone who possesses the proper credentials in life are given access to or are entitled to special privileges that exist depending upon your position, rank or title. At some point in his life, Jesus was recognized as a magician, rabbi and teacher despite not having an earthly degree in any of these areas. This reputation enabled Jesus to converse, discuss and meet with a wide range of individuals. During the first century, a rich young ruler approached Jesus searching for a passport to heaven.

A certain ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially and morally good], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” 19 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is [essentially and morally] good except God alone, Luke 18:18-19.

A first century doctor recounts the dialogue between these two men in the passage above and below.  Based upon what was written, it appears that this ruler believed that heaven was something that could be earned.  Jesus nips this mindset in the butt, informing any who could hear that only God is good.  Jesus transitions into a different direction, taking a spiritual inventory of this young man’s past.  This discussion led to knowing and practicing the ten commandments.  Like a counselor listening to their patient, Jesus noticed one thing lacking within this ruler.  Financial success led this man to rely on money rather than fully trust the Lord to provide.  At the end of their conversation, this rich young ruler walks away disappointed, unable to meet the credentials necessary for a passport to heaven.

When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “You still lack one thing; sell everything that you have and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk],” Luke 18:22-23.

In a previous conversation with his own disciples, Jesus provides further insight into the credentials necessary to receive a passport to heaven.  Jesus gives those who seek to become a modern day disciple three ultimatums.  First, deny yourself by setting aside selfish ambitions.  Second, take up your cross through a willingness to endure whatever may come in the form of persecution.  Third, follow Jesus, by believing, conforming and emulating the life of Christ.  If you have to summarize these requirements to receive a passport to heaven, you must be willing to lose your life, surrendering it completely, to find eternal life.

by Jay Mankus

The Door to Life

The word entrance is an opening that allows access to a place.  The most common entrance is a door, but others include corridors, gates and passages.  Prior to modern technology such as cell phones, email or social media, you went to someone’s house if you wanted to get their attention.  The Bible uses a similar concept, but before you find the correct door, you must listen first.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me, Revelation 3:20.

The Bible makes a clear distinction between listening and acting upon advice from the Holy Spirit.  Anyone can notice, observe or understand the way to heaven, yet unless you exercise faith by opening the door to life, this knowledge is useless.  If you take the passage above literally, God speaks to individuals throughout life.  This could be through miracles, signs or wonders.  Nonetheless, God doesn’t do everything for you as only you can open this door.

Whoever you are who seeks to honor these doors, you should seek not to admire the gold or the expense, but the craftmanship of the work instead.  The noble work is bright, but because it is nobly bright, let it brighten minds so that they may travel through the true lights to the True Light. where Christ is the True Door, Abbot Suger – 1140.

Abbot Suger was a French abbot, statesman, and historian during the late 11th century.  Suger was one of the earliest patrons of Gothic architecture.  If you enter any historic church, you will likely find magnificent stain glass windows inside or behind the altar inspired by this time period.  At some point in his life, Suger listened to God’s voice and opened the door to life.  In the quote above, Suger suggests that there are counterfeits, masquerading as the way to heaven.  Yet, by the end of his life, Suger came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is the true door to life.

by Jay Mankus

The Sons of this Age

While sharing the parable of the shrewd manager, Jesus makes an interesting observation.  Even in the first century, followers of Jesus did not treat one another as well as non-believers.  Perhaps, competition, immaturity and judgmental spirits began to cause infighting within the body of Christ.  Instead of demonstrating the love of God as salt and light, Matthew 5:13-15, religious leaders afraid to let go of Judaism stunted the spiritual growth of many new converts.

And his master commended the unjust manager [not for his misdeeds, but] because he had acted shrewdly [by preparing for his future unemployment]; for the sons of this age [the non-believers] are shrewder in relation to their own kind [that is, to the ways of the secular world] than are the sons of light [the believers], Luke 16:8.

In the passage above, Jesus refers to non-believers as the sons of this age.  To certain extent, many of these individuals would be categorized as amoral, not knowing right from wrong.  Yet, the parable of the shrewd manager illustrates that it’s never too late to change.  Despite whatever misdeeds you have committed in the past, God uses conviction to elicit repentance.  When the man in this story was fearful his position would be lost, a sense of desperation produced a series of business transactions to save his job.

And I tell you [learn from this], make friends for yourselves [for eternity] by means of the wealth of unrighteousness [that is, use material resources as a way to further the work of God], so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings, Luke 16:9.

The passage above urges readers to avoid legalism which stifles faith.  Instead of analyzing this or that, don’t be afraid to use earthly income to make friends for eternity.  While this context contradicts other passages above money, Jesus wants people to realize that material resources purchased by wealth furthers the work of God.  Essentially, what Jesus is saying is the sons of this age are like a harvest waiting to be picked.  However, the workers with the right mentality are few.  Thus, if you want to become fishers of men, set your heart and mind on things above.

by Jay Mankus

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

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

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