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Naughty or Nice?

Dr. Suess first released the original The Grinch Who Stole Christmas in 1957. The man behind Dr. Suess is actually Theodor Seuss Geisel. The concept of a Christmas Naughty and Nice list was implied by Dr. Suess with the Grinch as the poster child for the naughty. Seven years later Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer introduced Santa’s Naughty and Nice List. Meanwhile, the 1973 Christmas classic The Year Without a Santa Claus reenergized Santa’s calling to travel the world on Christmas Eve to reward good children.

But I tell you, on the day of judgment men will have to give account for every [s]idle (inoperative, nonworking) word they speak. 37 For by your words you will be justified and acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned and sentenced, Matthew 12:36-37.

As I’m about the finish my study of the Book of Revelation, I was reminded of the Bible’s own Naughty and Nice List. In the first century, Jesus pointed to the Book of Life while teaching about Judgment Day. Anyone who has made their reservations in advance, Romans 10:9-11 and 1 John 5:12-13, will be acquitted on Judgment Day. The apostle Paul explains this in Galatians 2:20 and 1 Corinthians 15:53-58. Subsequently, anyone who has entered into a personal relationship with Jesus makes the Nice List.

And the sea delivered up the dead who were in it, death and Hades ([c]the state of death or disembodied existence) surrendered the dead in them, and all were tried and their cases determined by what they had done [according to their motives, aims, and works], Revelation 20:13.

The apostle Paul writes about those individuals who pass away without ever being introduced to Jesus in Romans 1:18-20. According to the disciple whom Jesus loved, these people will be judged based upon their aims, motives and works. The great commission is currently in its third and final stage, Acts 1:8, taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. God’s Naughty and Nice List is finalized based upon these three categories. If you’re unsure if your name is in The Book of Life, there’s still time to join the nice list, Hebrews 10:26-27.

by Jay Mankus

When It Happens to You

Over the weekend, I caught a portion of the 2017 film the Shack. When a father loses sight of his daughter while camping in the mountains, a search party is formed to discover her whereabouts before dark. Unfortunately, this race against time ends in tragedy. Like any painful experience in life, the father played by Sam Worthington goes into a tailspin, struggling to make it through each day.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and prudent and shrewd in their own sight! – Isaiah 5:20-21

A divine appointment leads Mack Phillips to return to place where his daughter was murdered. I can’t imagine anyone being able to cope, deal with or handle this ordeal. Despite being warned by a friend, Mack goes alone, to see if a letter from God found in his mailbox was legit or simply a hoax. To avoid a complete spoiler alert, Mack meets a family who attempts to help him see the hand of God working through this trial.

So speak and so act as [people should] who are to be judged under the law of liberty [the moral instruction given by Christ, especially about love]. 13 For to him who has shown no mercy the judgment [will be] merciless, but mercy [full of glad confidence] exults victoriously over judgment, James 2:12-13.

A few days later, God allows Mack to switch sides, playing the role of judge and jury. Mack’s assignment is to determine which of his two remaining children will go to heaven and who will go to hell. When your perception of good and evil is placed in a position of power, making a final decision isn’t easy. Thus, when evil happens to you or someone’s misguided use of freewill results in a deadly accident, grasping this reality is unfathomable for many. Therefore, whatever happens to you, good or bad, make sure you display grace, mercy and love to your enemies so Jesus will forgive you too.

by Jay Mankus

Revisiting the Pinocchio Meter

Geico’s advertisement campaigns have been masterful using a gecko lizard, cave man and most recently Pinocchio to illustrate a felt need for insurance. While the cave man and gecko have received the most notoriety, the addition of Pinocchio adds an interesting element. This wooden puppet created by Geppetto is synonymous with lying. Whenever Pinocchio failed to tell the truth, his nose immediately grew to expose his latest lie.

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight, Proverbs 12:22.

Pinocchio was first interjected by Geico as a flawed motivational speaker. The latest commercials include a blind date and parking ticket. The sight of Pinocchio’s nose growing with each fib still makes me laugh. However, when cable news pundits, newspapers and reporters alter the context of a statement, exaggerate or stretch the truth daily, it’s not funny at all. Yet, this is the state of America’s politics in 2020 with the nastiest likely yet to come.

A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish, Proverbs 19:9.

It’s a shame that the Ten Commandments are broken daily without much outrage. Whether a member of the media bears false witness, dishonors parents and takes the Lord’s name in vain, the foundation for ethics in America is crumbling. Instead justification and rationalization allow lies to be told if it’s against a certain party or hated individual. Until modern day Pinocchio’s are exposed for their dishonesty, lying ways will continue. If only a Pinocchio Meter was available for all to see, ethics and morality would change. Yet, for now it’s in God’s hand, waiting for Judgment Day for the liars to be revealed.

by Jay Mankus

Death Knows Where to Find You

The older you get, the presence of death becomes more of a reality.  In the past year, I have lost a cousin, aunt and father in law.  At the last funeral I attended, I received news that my wife’s aunt Rose was recently diagnosed with cancer.  Last week, Rose went home to be with the Lord.  A homecoming in heaven, but a painful reminder of our temporary status on earth.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7.

According to Solomon, our bodies are on loan from God.  The Hebrew word for Adam is Adamah, symbolic of God forming Adam’s body out of the earth.  The moment death strikes human beings, souls return back to God.  While your body is left to decay beneath the ground, your spirit awaits judgment before spending eternity in heaven or hell.

Now there are [distinctive] varieties of spiritual gifts [special abilities given by the grace and extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit operating in believers], but it is the same Spirit [who grants them and empowers believers]. And there are [distinctive] varieties of ministries and service, but it is the same Lord [who is served]. And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit [the spiritual illumination and the enabling of the Holy Spirit] for the common good, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

The apostle Paul referred to human bodies as a temple.  When the Holy of holies was torn in two during the earthquake immediately following Jesus’ death on a cross, this event set the stage God’s presence to no longer be limited to a physical building.  Rather, Jesus’ resurrection and the Day of Pentecost opened the door for the Holy Spirit to enter your life.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” Revelation 21:4.

In the last chapter of the Bible, John has a vision of Jesus in heaven.  Seeing the toll death takes on friends, family and relatives, Jesus promises to provide an eternally environment where they will be no more tears.  Heaven is the final destination where God will make you whole.  Since death knows where to find you, make sure your plans are secured before your time is up, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Somebody’s Watching You

Hollywood was been warning individuals for years through movies that somebody is watching you.  In 1995 Sandra Bullock starred in The Net, illustrating computer security concerns of the world wide net in this cyber murder mystery.  Three years later Will Smith, Gene Hackman and Jon Voight took this concept further in Enemy of the State highlighting how satellites and technological advances can be used to spy on American citizens.  Twenty years later, Google, Facebook and tracking devices have made this fear a reality, using cell phones and tablets to actually track where you are and what you’re saying if certain features aren’t turned off.  While the popularity of social media continues to climb, many have become distracted, unaware that somebody is watching you.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good, Proverbs 15:3.

From a spiritual sense, the somebody who is watching your every move is the Creator of the heavens and earth.  The biblical term for this supernatural ability is omnipresence.  According to various authors who have written books describing judgment day, this data is collected over the course of each life.  After you die, every deed is made into a movie reel as your entire life flashes before your eyes.  Following this presentation, God separates the sheep, followers of Jesus from goats, those who rejected God by their actions, behavior and deeds.  If this process does occur, this serves as a warning for the world to shape up by giving your life to Jesus before your hourglass of time runs out on earth.

Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord, Jeremiah 23:24.

After wandering away from the Lord during my first semester of college, I came to my senses feeling empty by what the world had to offer.  Through Christian groups on the University of Delaware campus, I went through what I call my spiritual rehab.  On one occasion I was introduced to the word integrity.  A friend illustrated this in terms of doing what’s right when nobody is looking.  This image should be the mindset for all modern day Christians.  For some reason, human nature makes people believe darkness or secrecy can hide sins from God.  However, the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah exposes this false notion.  In view of this truth, may the Holy Spirit fill you with integrity so that as God watches your deeds will be pleasing in His sight.

by Jay Mankus

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

A week ago, I was standing at a podium, preaching the message God had placed on my heart for a local congregation.  For one of the first times in a year, I was exactly where God wanted me to be.  However, after the accolades, encouraging words and thanks faded, the Holy Spirit put a new thought on my mind.  Christianity is not about one experience; its about the journey which leads you to heaven.  Therefore, don’t think you have arrived!  Rather, ask yourself, what how you done for God lately?

Beginning in Matthew 24, Matthew devotes 2 chapters to Jesus’ teaching on End Times Theology.  Jesus concludes his lesson with a series of parables, stories that illustrate a biblical truth.  The final one is entitled, The Sheep and the Goats, based upon the Old Testament principle of clean and unclean animals, Matthew 25:31-46.  As I reflect upon the words of verses 41-43, I am guilty as charged.  I pass by homeless people weekly, turning my head, ashamed that I don’t have any spare money to give.  Meanwhile, I am surrounded by sick people in my neighborhood, yet the busyness of life has prevented me from fulfilling this passage.  Jesus’ words pierce my heart, haunting me by my lack of action to the least of these.

Instead of following the Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-36 blueprint, many churches have deviated from this model.  While the elderly, ex-cons, homeless and ill have been pushed aside, many churches are pouring their money into extravagant facilities.  This latest version of Christianity is cleaner, leaner and in some cases, meaner, failing to provide for the needy.  Although the easy answer is to automatically believe you are a sheep, watch out that pride doesn’t leave you like a goat, on the outside looking in.  As judgment day approaches, Matthew 10:32-42, prepare yourself for life’s final exam now.  With just one question to study for, Jesus’ words will echo throughout this room, “What have you done for Me lately?”

by Jay Mankus

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