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Tag Archives: John the Baptist

All Those Who Were Listening

While Billy Joel refers to honesty as such a lonely word in his 1979 song, teachers often feel the same way about listening.  As a former high school teacher who spent a decade standing in front of teenagers, rarely did I grab the attention of an entire class.  This became apparent during each chapter review prior to the next text as only a handful of students were prepared.  At some point during my lectures, these informed students were attentive, able to concentrate or kept an open ear to what I was presenting.  While uniformed students may cram their way toward a good grade, all those who are consistently listening receive blessings from God.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who were listening to the message [confirming God’s acceptance of Gentiles]. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, Acts 10:44-45.

While interviewing Peter about an encounter with Gentiles, Luke narrows in on the power of listening.  Based upon Peter’s recollection of this day, not everyone in the audience was listening to his sermon.  This became obvious when those talking in the back or whispering on the side did not receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Whether the words above are a direct quote from Peter or an observation made by Luke the author, “the Holy Spirit only fell on those who were listening.”  While not mentioned, the rest of the crowd sat around dumbfounded, likely disappointed that they missed this blessing from God.

For all the prophets and the Law prophesied up until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is [the fulfillment of] Elijah [as the messenger] who was to come [before the kingdom]. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear and heed My words, Matthew 11:13-15.

When John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod, a delegation of John’s disciples was sent to Jesus to make sense of his earthly ministry.  John’s disciples wanted to know if Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah.  Thus, as these men approached Jesus, they hung on every spoken word.  Following a tribute to John the Baptist, Jesus ends his comments with a plea to listen.  Based upon the quote above, there are two types of listening: casual and responsive.  Jesus doesn’t want people to nod in agreement.  Rather, God desires followers of Christ to become doers of the Word by putting Jesus’ advice into action.  Blessings will bestowed upon all those who are attentively listening.

by Jay Mankus

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From Heaven or Earth?

When my father was forced to transfer to Cleveland, Ohio to keep his job, I was introduced to cocktail parties.  If you want to move from the middle to upper class, I learned that these social events were a necessary evil.  These house parties enabled my parents to make new friends.  This group called New Clevelanders encouraged parents to bring their own college children to these functions as a way to network as families started over in a new town.  I quickly realized that colleges, degrees and majors provided surface level discussions.  If you wanted to fit in, going clubbing, drinking and partying were code names into this elite club.  I went along with the crowd for a while until conviction made it clear that I was living a lie.

Jesus replied, “I will also ask you a question. You tell Me: The baptism of John [the Baptist]—was it from heaven [that is, ordained by God] or from men?” – Luke 20:3-4

During the first century, Jesus began to debate religious scholars.  Raised in elite and wealthy families, these men were schooled by the best and brightest minds.  Meanwhile, Jesus who spent most of his life as a carpenter, void of any formal educational, drew much larger crowds.  Thus, resentment manifested in the hearts of these men, jealous of Jesus’ popularity.  This culminated in the passage above as Jesus uses John the Baptist to illustrate that authority can come from heaven, not just through earthly institutions.  Certain aspects, knowledge and qualities can only be explained as ordained by God despite what earthly wisdom may suggest.

They discussed and debated it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are firmly convinced that John was a prophet,” Luke 20:5-6.

During a breakfast I had with a friend in December, he marveled at my ability to come up with thousands of ideas for my blogs.  From an earthly point of view, my only credentials for writing involve teaching poetry at a boarding school.  This tangible experience ignited a passion for writing.  Nothing in my past pointed to a career in writing.  My English grades, grammar and vocabulary were average at best.  Yet, just as John the Baptist received a special anointing from God, the Lord has given me the gift of writing in the Spirit.  The more in tune with God I become, the deeper my blogs tend to be.  However, on occasion, I become unplugged, relying on earthly knowledge, struggling to come up with material for a week.  These phases are natural, a by product of human nature.  Nonetheless, while earthly credentials do lead to successful writers, I credit my heavenly father for Express Yourself 4Him.

by Jay Mankus

 

Reaching a State of Expectation

From time to time, I make the mistake of trying to make changes to my life without asking or seeking God’s help.  While determination, discipline and focus can be effective tools to alter bad habits, spiritual ruts and unhealthy patterns, human effort will only take you so far.  I guess this is human nature’s way of learning the hard way.  Whenever I reach a point of frustration, unsatisfied with the current state of my faith, responding to a convicted heart is the best place to start.

Even now the axe [of God’s judgment] is swinging toward the root of the trees; so every tree that does not produce good fruit is being cut down and thrown into the fire,” Luke 3:9.

In the first century, God sent a messenger to prepare the way for the coming of His son Jesus.  Known as John the Baptist, this prophet used the Old Testament practice of purging to pierce the hearts of his audience.  As individuals began to reflect upon their vast imperfections, many came forward to be baptized by John.  Uncertain of what to do next, soldiers and tax collectors consulted John on the proper acts of penitence to pursue.  This advice provided vision for these newly baptized souls, reaching a state of expectation, looking for opportunities to serve God each and every day..

The crowds asked him, “Then what are we to do?” 11 And John replied, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do the same.” 12 Even some tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked, “Teacher, what are we to do?” 13 And he told them, “Collect no more than the fixed amount you have been ordered to [collect].” 14 Some soldiers asked him, “And what about us, what are we to do?” And he replied to them, “Do not extort money from anyone or harass or blackmail anyone, and be satisfied with your wages,” Luke 3:10-14.

Belief without trust, faith without action and hypocritical words are some of the reasons Christian churches aren’t flourishing like the first century.  One of the main culprits for this spiritual stagnancy are believers void of any fruit, Galatians 5:22-23.  If Christians are suppose to be the light of the world but lack integrity no one will take them serious.  Meanwhile, if the church is suppose to be the salt of the earth but lose their saltiness, there is no flavor left to incite any kind of spiritual hunger.  Therefore, if you want to reverse this trend, let the words of John the Baptist inspire you to reach a state of expectation influenced by the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

The Final Reveal

Reality Television shows often share a similar format.  Shows like Bar Rescue, Garage Restoration and Home Makeover attempt to give someone a better life.  Candidates are chosen based upon human interest stories, tragic events or unfortunate circumstances.  Producers reveal the past, present and the potential future if given a chance to succeed.  The climax occurs at the final reveal with some sharing an update of life since the show was filmed.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children, Matthew 11:25.

The Bible refers to another reveal.  In the Old Testament, prophets spoke of a coming Messiah, one who would save people from their sins.  After John the Baptist arrived early in the first century, Jews began to wonder, is this the One?  When John heard of these rumors, he quickly silenced them.  John refers to himself as a messenger, preparing the way for the one to come.

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” – Matthew 11:2-3

While in prison, John sent his disciples to receive assurance on his hunch about Jesus.  The verse above highlights the initial question.  Likely frustrated, Jesus replies with a question of his own.  You see, Jesus’ teaching style forced followers to figure things out on their own.  Thus, instead of dumbing things down, Jesus put the onus back on John’s disciples.  What do all these miracles mean?  What do you think?  At the end of chapter 11, Jesus confirms what some suspected, He is the Son of God.  This is the final reveal, the exclamation point of the gospel, “Jesus came to restore that which was lost,” Luke 19:10.

by Jay Mankus

Should We Be Expecting Anyone Else?

Whether you are an employee, novice or student, there is a hesitancy that exists within human beings.  This fear of the unknown inspires the question, “Am I on the right track?”  Until you receive confirmation, subtle doubts will linger.  This anxiety causes many to wonder, “should I be expecting someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor, Matthew 11:4-5.

Before John the Baptist is murdered in the first century, he was imprisoned.  Something within him sensed death was near.  Thus, in his last days on earth John sought the truth, hoping to receive assurance to his assumptions.  John sent some of his own disciples to Jesus to confirm if Jesus was indeed the Messiah spoken by the Old Testament prophets.  The passage above is Jesus’ response to John’s question.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me, John 14:6.

A few years later, Jesus’ disciples developed a similar concern, not sure who their leader really was.  This uncertainty led to chatter between disciples, wondering if there was a connection between Jesus and God.  As Passion Week began, Jesus’ last week on earth prior to his crucifixion, he silences any remaining doubt with the passage above.  Surely, upon hearing the news that Jesus was the only way to God the Father resolved this life long question.  The answer is no!

by Jay Mankus

 

The Hidden Years of Jesus

In the life of a Jew, adulthood begins at age twelve.  A ceremony known as a Bar-mitzvah for boys and Bat-mitzvah for girls commences this stage in life.  Luke 2 provides the only glimpse of Jesus’ life as a boy during his Bar-mitzvah.  Following this event, there are 18 years of silence known as the hidden years of Jesus.

And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart, Luke 2:51.

Despite this gap of missing time, there are a few things we know about Jesus.  First, Jesus continued in the ways of his earthly father Joseph as a carpenter.  According to Luke, Jesus remained an obedient son, providing for his mother Mary after Joseph’s death.  The next time Jesus appears in the Bible is in the day of John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus’ earthly ministry.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man, Luke 2:52.

There are 3 qualities that highlight the missing years of Jesus,  First, Jesus grew in wisdom by daily taking time alone to pray with his heavenly father.  Second, Jesus’ actions, constant care and nurturing words magnified his stature as a godly man.  Finally, as Jesus keep in step with the Holy Spirit, God favor remained on Jesus in the form of daily blessings.  All these things prepared Jesus for the accounts portrayed in the four gospels which transformed the lives of 11 disciples.

by Jay Mankus

Matters Related to God

Since Adam failed to demonstrate leadership and Eve fell for the Devil’s trap, God’s perfect world vanished.  Thus, one of God’s first course of actions was to send a second Adam to restore that which was lost.  A temporary plan was put into practice, using a high priest to atone for the sins of Israel.  However, the Lord allowed time to pass before his resolution was unveiled.

Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins, Hebrews 5:1.

John the Baptist was chosen to serve as a messenger to communicate this matter.  One of the first objectives was to make a stark contracts between the God of the Old and New Testament.  The Lord was willing to offer His one and only son, not to condemn the world, but to save it.  Protected by angels and guided by the Holy Spirit, Jesus invested the last three years of his earthly life setting the stage for the modern church.  The only thing remaining was for the Father of life to stand by, allowing Jesus to become the perfect Lamb of God.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him, John 3:17.

Unfortunately, today many Christians are distracted by deception philosophy and human traditions.  Making the complex simple, matters related to God can be summed up in three biblical principles.  Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind.  Love you neighbor as yourself and pray for those who persecute you.  By doing this you will emulate the love of Christ and remind the world of a gracious and merciful God waiting to save those tangled by sin.

by Jay Mankus

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