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Tag Archives: love

Heaven is Not for Everyone

I am always cautious when I try to tackle an unpopular topic. Yet, whenever I attend a funeral where a member of the clergy assumes or suggests that heaven is for everyone, I cringe. While God is the ultimate judge, a person’s witness typically leaves behind a trail of bread crumbs for friends and family to follow. Depending upon actions, deeds and faith demonstrated, you will find assurance, doubt or uncertainty for the eternal fate of those whom you love.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13-14.

Jesus comments on two passages about heaven. The first focuses on the percentage of individuals that will end up in heaven or hell. The second details a necessary requirement to be forgiven by God. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush, blunt to his audience. You have two choices, follow the narrow path that leads to everlasting life or follow the crowd down the road toward eternal loss.

Then He opened their minds to [help them] understand the Scriptures, 46 and said, “And so it is written, that the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed) would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance [necessary] for forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things, Luke 24:45-48.

One of Jesus’ final words before acsending into heaven focuses on how New Testament Jews can find forgiveness through repentance. Biblical repentance contains two requisites, turn away from evil and turn back toward God. If one of these two steps is skipped, true repentance is not achieved. Thus, if anyone wants to approach death with eternal security, 1 John 5:13, repentance needs to become a daily practice. While I hate to be a Debbie downer, the Bible clearly states heaven is not for everyone.

by Jay Mankus

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Reunited

While sitting in the back seat of my parents’ car growing up, the radio was set to a local soft rock station. During summer vacations, I often listened to the American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. One of the songs that I remember listening to was Reunited by Peaches and Herb. This R&B classic sings about a couple who comes to their senses, deciding to get back together. Like anything in life, sometimes you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.

They got up that very hour and went back to Jerusalem, and found the eleven [apostles] gathered together and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon [Peter]!” – Luke 24:33-34

Following a post-resurrection conversation with Jesus, Peter was inspired to reunite with the rest of the disciples. Although Judas Iscariot was not present, committing suicide due to guilt from betraying Jesus, eleven men got together in Jerusalem. While musicians who reunite often go back on tour or craft a new album, the disciples were waiting on instructions, unsure of what to do. Prior to his ascension into heaven, Jesus has one last meeting with these leaders to discuss God’s plan for reuniting believers.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted [that it was really He]. 18 Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:16-19.

This event is known as the Great Commission, a blue print that future apostles follow throughout the book of Acts. The opening lyrics from a Kurt Kaiser song sums up the passage above. “It only takes a spark to keep a fire going. And so all those around will warm up to its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experience it, you spread His love to everyone, you want to pass it on.” Just as the disciples passed on Jesus’ message to apostles, modern Christians are encouraged to do the same. The only way to be reunited in heaven with those whom you love on earth is by fulfilling the Great Commission today.

by Jay Mankus

Conversations That Make Your Heart Burn For More

As someone who endured a severe speech impediment during my childhood, I never imagined entering into conversations where I was able to share everything on my heart and in my mind. Prior to high school, I lived my life as a loner. Besides playing sports, I kept to myself. Except for a few friends in my neighborhood, nobody really knew me. While my heart burned for meaningful conversations, stuttering prevented me from experiencing what others took for granted.

And it happened that as He reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 Then their eyes were [suddenly] opened [by God] and they [clearly] recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight, Luke 24:30-31.

Beside first century historians, the only other way to get to know Jesus of Nazareth is through reading the Bible. In the passage above, Jesus appears to be the life of a party, eager to recline, relax and engage other people. Jesus had a special gift of probing into the lives of others by asking open ended questions, forcing participants to go beyond surface level content. Instead of judging people prematurely, Jesus shows compassion, love and understanding to those eager to learn. While individuals may struggle to remember the last time they had a meaningful conversation, every encounter with Jesus made hearts burn for more.

They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was talking with us on the road and opening the Scriptures to us?” – Luke 24:32

One of the reasons why I became a youth pastor after college rather pursue a career as a golf course architect was centered around conversations. During a duel internship, God filled me with a desire to win souls to Christ. Talking about golf courses during the day was fun, but connecting with young people who wanted to draw near to Christ at night was more invigorating. Thus, I declined an opportunity to move to Boston, Massachusetts to work on a future project. Instead, I accepted a position as a Work Camp Coordinator in Inner City Wilmington. While this decision didn’t make sense to my parents, I was like a young disciple with a heart burning to know more about Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Powerful in Deed and Word

The reality show Undercover Boss premiered in February of 2010. Business owners, CEO’s and presidents go undercover to interact with employees. While disguises vary, the employee’s impression will prove to the boss how important their job is to them. During a seven mile trip from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus performs a similar act on a couple of his disciples. Jesus plays coy, pretending not to know what happened three days earlier. According to Luke 24:16, no one recognized Jesus, playing the part of an undercover boss.

He asked, “What things?” And they replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, Luke 24:19.

Near the end of this discussion, one disciple makes an interesting observation. While reflecting upon his life, this man compares Jesus to a prophet whose deeds and words are powerful. Jesus wasn’t all talk, no action. Rather, compassion led to miracles, day after day, helping those who came to Jesus as a last resort. Despite the compliments given to Jesus, these men lacked hope, faith and joy, acting like modern defeated Christians.

For indeed you already do practice it toward all the believers throughout Macedonia [by actively displaying your love and concern for them]. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, that you excel [in this matter] more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to live quietly and peacefully, and to mind your own affairs and work with your hands, just as we directed you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders [exhibiting good character, personal integrity, and moral courage worthy of the respect of the outside world], and be dependent on no one and in need of nothing [be self-supporting], 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12.

The apostle Paul encourages the congregation of Thessalonica to practice displaying the love of God. Instead of speaking too much, Paul urges believers to live out their faith quietly. Unless you earn the respect of outsiders, you won’t be able to expand the gospel. Thus, while some people find it easy to talk to strangers, living out your faith is more important. When the timing is right, doors will open to further God’s kingdom. Until then, may your deeds be just as powerful as your words.

by Jay Mankus

Beyond the Golden Rule

Traces of a golden rule can be found in the early 17th century. The first usage of this term in the context of the Bible appears to occur in 1604.
Anglican preachers and theologians from Great Britain are credited for coining this expression. Charles Gibbon and Thomas Jackson are the first to paraphrase the words of Jesus with a succinct command: treat others the way you would want them to treat you.

Then one of the scribes [an expert in Mosaic Law] came up and listened to them arguing [with one another], and noticing that Jesus answered them well, asked Him, “Which commandment is first and most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first and most important one is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength,’ Mark 12:28-30.

After listening to a sermon last weekend on this topic, there is a flaw to the golden rule. It’s impossible to love others unless you first possess the love of God within your heart. C.S. Lewis refers to this concept as Theological Virtues in his book Mere Christianity. Anyone has access to Cardinal Virtues like prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude. However, theological virtues such as hope, faith and charity are only accessible via the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the only way to successfully live out the golden rule involves entering a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 5:1-5.

This is the second: ‘You shall [unselfishly] love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Admirably answered, Teacher; You truthfully stated that He is One, and there is no other but Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to [unselfishly] love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices,” Mark 12:31-33.

The apostle Paul provides a few verses that support this theory. Philippians 2:4 encourages individuals to look to the interests of others. However, unless you take care of your own needs first, you won’t be able to help and love others if your own spiritual house isn’t in order. Meanwhile, Paul also explains how to go beyond the golden rule in Romans 15:2. Pleasing your neighbor is expected through random acts of kindness. However, if you want to go the extra mile, build up your neighbor spiritually. Therefore, if you want to go beyond the golden rule, make it your ambition to plant spiritual seeds daily.

by Jay Mankus

The Protector of the Soul

A soul is the essence of who you are as a human being. Others compare this to an emotional sense able to serve as a moral compass. Synonyms include ego, psyche and spirit. This embodiment takes on a persona of it’s own based upon the decisions that you make in life.

You who love the Lord, hate evil; He protects the souls of His godly ones (believers), He rescues them from the hand of the wicked, Psalm 97:10.

According to the Psalmist, the Lord is the protector of souls. However, there is a prerequisite, a set of guidelines to ensure your own safety. The first is common sense, love the Lord and hate evil. This is accomplished through making godly choices by listening to convictions. As individuals follow the light, that which is right, darkness is exposed sharpening one’s conscience.

Light is sown [like seed] for the righteous and illuminates their path,
And [irrepressible] joy [is spread] for the upright in heart [who delight in His favor and protection], Psalm 97:11.

The Psalmist uses an analogy of a seed which is dependent upon light and water to grow. Based upon the context above, the seed for righteousness is the Word of God. As souls meditate on the principles within the Bible day and night, Joshua 1:8, an irrepressible joy is found. For those who hide God’s Word in their heart, favor is secured by the protector of souls.

by Jay Mankus

Grounded

During my years as a teenager, grounding was a common form of discipline. When a child became as tall as their parent or guardian, grounding replaced spanking for inappropriate, rebellious or wrong behavior. If you received bad grades on a report card, the punishment would range from grounded for a weekend, month or marking period depending upon how bad or the strictness of your parents.

For the Lord disciplines and corrects those whom He loves, And He punishes every son whom He receives and welcomes [to His heart].” You must submit to [correction for the purpose of] discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? – Hebrews 12:6-7

Grounded also refers to a pilot who is prohibited or prevented from flying. In the 2012 film Flight starring Denzel Washington, pilot Whip Whittaker is on a routine flight from Orlando to Atlanta. When the plane suffers a
severe mechanical breakdown in midair, Whittaker played by Washington
does a miraculous job crash-landing this plane. Initially, Whip is treated like a hero until a toxicology test reveals traces of alcohol and cocaine in his blood stream. Thus, Whittaker is grounded until the investigation into this crash is complete.

For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems sad and painful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness [right standing with God and a lifestyle and attitude that seeks conformity to God’s will and purpose], Hebrews 12:11.

When I was young, I remember my initial spankings. This isn’t because of any emotional scars. Rather, it’s the words my parents shared prior to being spanked, “this is going to hurt me more than you.” My sarcastic mind didn’t understand what they were trying to say until I read Hebrews 12. Discipline is a form a love, extreme intervention at times to alter the steps of a wayward child. While grounding didn’t seem like a good idea when I was a teenager, now as a parent grounding has a new meaning. Although the PC police frowns upon biblical discipline, may the Lord give you insight and wisdom to discipline you own or future children properly.

by Jay Mankus

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