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An Unreserved Approach to God

Approach refers to draw closer; to come very near to. Prior to coming to faith, I viewed God as the great disciplinarian. Growing up in a Roman Catholic Church, God’s grace, love, and mercy was foreign to me. Thus, I developed an Old Testament perspective, one of judgment and wrath. I never felt good enough or worthy to approach God. Until joining a Methodist Youth Group in high school, I couldn’t comprehend an unreserved approach to God.

In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear). 13 So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you. 14 For this reason [seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 3:12-14.

As the apostle Paul began to meet other Jewish converts to Christianity, a similar mindset prevented many from drawing near to God. The passage above serves as encouragement, opening the door to what is possible for those who believe in Jesus. Instead of allowing doubt to reign in your head, dare to have the boldness, courage, and confidence to approach God. When the presence of fear is removed, an unreserved approach to God is possible.

For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. 16 Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it], Hebrews 4:15-16.

The passage above connects the Old Testament with the realization of the Messiah in the New Testament. Rather than continue in the ways of Mosaic Law to atone for sin, the author of Hebrews refers to Jesus as a great High Priest. This symbolism fulfills the words of Moses in Leviticus 17:11 which grants access to the throne of God. Part of the good news about Jesus Christ is that those who believe are granted permission to an unreserved approach to God. Take advantage of this new access, Romans 5:1-2.

by Jay Mankus

Just What I Needed

As a teenager, the Cars became one of my favorite bands in high school. I actually met Rick Ocasek in passing, the lead singer of Cars, while walking through downtown Boston during a Spring Break in college. Ocasek wrote Just What I Needed in a basement at a commune in Newton, Massachusetts. While the inspiration behind this song varies depending upon the site you visit, the title speaks to human beings searching for a boost to get them through each day.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over. Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place, Psalm 23:5-6.

In the passage above, King David reflects back to his life as a lowly shepherd boy. This eloquent Psalm compares the responsibilities of a shepherd to how God provides for the needs of human beings. Whether you are in green pastures, having a great day or approaching the shadow of death, the Lord is all that you need to weave your way through life. While many search for love in all the wrong places, Jesus is just what I needed, Romans 10:9-11.

And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:19.

In a letter to the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul builds upon Psalm 23. Like a global retail chain, the Lord serves as a massive supplier to fill all of our needs. Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ disciples claims that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life, 2 Peter 1:3-4. While songs like Just What I Needed may meet an emotional need, God’s grace, love, and mercy is a spiritual gift from heaven, John 3:16-17. As individuals accept this free gift, Romans 6:23, hearts, souls, and minds come to realize that this is just what I needed.

by Jay Mankus

Going Under

Whenever you receive a call from a doctor’s office that you’ll need to bring a living will and testament along with you for your upcoming appointment, minds begin to panic. These are the emotions that I’ve experienced the last two times I’ve had outpatient surgery. Part of me thought, “I’m too young to die.” However, my conscious whispered another bit of advice, “only God knows when your time on earth will run out.” These are the thoughts that raced through my mind today.

But the other one reproved him, saying, Do you not even fear God, seeing you yourself are under the same sentence of condemnation and suffering the same penalty? 41 And we indeed suffer it justly, receiving the due reward of our actions; but this Man has done nothing out of the way [nothing strange or eccentric or perverse or unreasonable], Luke 23:40-41.

At age 51, today was my first colonoscopy. Fortunately, I was able to be there for my wife last year when she had her own procedure. Yet, due to COVID-19 protocol, I was forced to go through this alone as Leanne wasn’t allowed to enter this facility. While I wasn’t nervous, I did sit alone in my room for nearly 2 hours before I was escorted into the operating room. After a brief conversation going over this procedure with my doctor, I received general Anesthesia. Due to a lack of sleep the night before, I was knocked out in a few minutes.

Then he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come in Your kingly glory! 43 And He answered him, Truly I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise, Luke 23:42-43.

Whenever you go under to prepare for a surgery, there is a chance that you won’t wake up. Whether through complications or a rare diagnosis, there are moments in life when time is not on your side. This was the fate of two criminals hanging from a cross on either side of Jesus. One became selfish, asking Jesus to save himself first and then save him. The other criminal felt unworthy, crying out to Jesus for mercy. According to Luke, Jesus offers this second man paradise in the form of heaven. Thus. that next time you field yourself getting ready for a surgery, about to go under, remember this passage so a reservation can be secured today, 1 John 5:13. In case you were still wondering, my procedure went well as my doctor gave me a clean bill of health.

by Jay Mankus

The Dumbing Down of America

If you follow current events, every day there is at least one news story that sounds like an April Fools’ joke. Unfortunately, most of these are true, a sign of the dumbing down of America. Take for example a recent press conference by the mayor of New Your City. Mayor Bill de Blasio was shocked on April 20, saying it is “unconscionable” that criminals released early from prison over coronavirus fears would commit new crimes. De Blasio could not understand how someone who was shown mercy could quickly become a repeat offender. Can someone say, “hello McFly.”

For the story and message of the cross is sheer absurdity and folly to those who are perishing and on their way to perdition, but to us who are being saved it is the [manifestation of] the power of God, 1 Corinthians 1:18.

In the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul made a head scratching statement. While the educators, philosophers and scholars of his day likely scoffed upon receiving news of his comment, Paul’s words have proven to be prophetic. From a historical context, a painting from the Italian Renaissance points to this transition. Raphael’s School of Athens includes two well known philosophers. Plato represents the old school of thought, pointing up to heaven. Meanwhile, Aristotle is symbolic of the new age, pointing within. As the centuries have past, many have rejected God in favor of science.

For it is written, I will baffle and render useless and destroy the learning of the learned and the philosophy of the philosophers and the cleverness of the clever and the discernment of the discerning; I will frustrate and nullify [them] and bring [them] to nothing, 1 Corinthians 1:19.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul uses the expression “baffle and render the wise useless.” Perhaps, Paul was referring to mere intellectual assent. This occurs when individuals have a logical appreciation for God, knowledge without belief. On average, there is 18 inches between the human heart and mind. Yet, until the heart and mind are on the same page as Roman 10:9-10, faith is merely a concept. When individuals are brilliant, logical or wealthy, trusting in an invisible God seems foolish. While in college, I came across a stat that said 85% of people who decide to follow Jesus do so before the age of 18. Thus, the older you get, the harder it becomes to surrender. When people resist God, foolish statements and dumb reasons often follow.

by Jay Mankus

You Had Me at Hello

The expression “You had me at hello” comes from a classic scene from the 1996 film Jerry Maguire. The context of this saying by Renee Zellweger to Tom Cruise who plays Jerry Maguire begins early in this movie. Renee plays a little known secretary, Dorothy Boyd, observing from a distance the man who built a high powered sports agency firm where she works. When Cruise develops a conscience after talking to one of his client’s sons, this inspires a new mission statement. Unfortunately, this new philosophy results in Jerry’s firing. Upon his departure, Dorothy is the only employee who is willing to quit her job, joining Cruise to start a new sports agency. This loyalty causes Jerry to marry Dorothy before debt and failure results in their separation. When this failed business venture finally has it’s first break through, Cruise has no one to share this great news with. Thus, Jerry finds himself in the middle of a room filled with divorced women, hoping that he can salvage his marriage.

So he went and forced himself on one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He would have gladly eaten the [carob] pods that the pigs were eating [but they could not satisfy his hunger], and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he [finally] came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough food, while I am dying here of hunger! – Luke 15:15-17

The Bible has it’s own version of you had me at hello. During a series of three parables, Luke illustrates how these analogies by Jesus illustrate how heaven celebrates individuals who turn back to God. The parable of Lost Sheep reveal how God searches after sheep, lost souls that go astray. The parable of the Lost Coin suggests that angels in heaven celebrate each time people make a U-turn back to God by repenting. The most famous example follows a younger brother who deserts his family, squandering his inheritance on wild living. When his money runs out, this prodigal is forced to become a slave at a pig farm, longing to eat the pods fed to the herd. From God’s perspective, when wayward souls come to their senses begging for forgiveness and mercy, the Lord embraces you at hello.

I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] treat me like one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him, Luke 15:18-20.

No matter how far people stray from God today, it’s never too late to say hello. The prophet Jeremiah is often referred to as the weeping prophet. When the Lord continues to urge you to tell Israel of bad news, it’s hard to remain positive. Yet, while writing the Book of Lamentations, Jeremiah provides a glimpse of hope. Lamentations 3:19-24 contains the subtitle Hope in Relief of God’s Mercy. This passage unveils the biblical promise that God’s compassion never fails, new every morning. Therefore, whether this blog finds you in a state like Jerry Maguire, a wandering sheep or a prodigal that has gone over the deep end, the Lord is waiting for you with open arms. Luke’s depiction compares God to a retired senior citizen sitting on his front porch, waiting for his children to visit. As soon as you make that final turn back in the right direction, God the Father runs to meet you half way, welcoming you home.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming the Burnout Syndrome

This week the World Health Organization has officially added Burnout Syndrome to its’ list of recognized disorders.  Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work.  Burnout has been assumed to result from chronic occupational stress.  Those most affected by this disorder are individuals forced to work a second job, those seeking to reinvent themselves in a new career after being laid off and workaholics.  Whenever human beings do not possess some sort of balance in the form of active hobbies, people are at risk of becoming burned out.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship, Romans 12:1.

According to a 2015 Gallup Poll, only one third of Americans enjoy and feel engaged by their current occupation.  If this study is accurate, nearly 70% of adults go to work each week disappointed, frustrated and unsatisfied with their job.   Trying to find what you were born to do or the job or your dreams can be extremely difficult.  This search can take months, years and even decades to complete until you find yourself eager to get up daily to do what you love.  For those of you in a holding pattern, doing whatever position you have to until another door opens, staying optimistic is hard.  Yet, as individuals wrestle with symptoms of the burnout syndrome, there is a cure for this disorder in the Bible.

And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you], Romans 12:2.

The apostle Paul writes a letter to the church at Rome to help people feeling lost, not sure about what direction to take in life.  Overcoming the burnout syndrome begins with viewing your life as a gift from God.  Just as Rush Limbaugh has coined the phrase “talent on loan from God, ” each day on earth should be devoted to becoming a living sacrifice for God.  When a decision is made to dedicate your life to God, holiness and worship become a daily priority.  According to Paul, as believers begin to read, study and meditate upon the Word of God, the Bible, hearts and mind become aligned with God.  Therefore, if you want to overcome the burnout syndrome, begin the quest to ascertain God’s will for your life so that your job will become a mission from above.

by Jay Mankus

God Doesn’t Move… But Many Run Away

The phrase “like father like son” first appeared in 1616, written within a book called Bibliotheca Scholastica Instructissima.  This piece included proverbs collected by an Englishman named Thomas Draxe.  Apparently, this idiom existed in the English language prior to this date, verbally communicated in similar manners or ways.  The point expressed by this saying implies that sons tend to emulate their fathers in action. behavior and word.  The eyes of a young child are watching, copying what they see.

Then the eyes of the two of them were opened [that is, their awareness increased], and they knew that they were naked; and they fastened fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool [afternoon breeze] of the day, so the man and his wife hid and kept themselves hidden from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden, Genesis 3:7-8.

The Bible has another way of explaining like father like son.  The theological term used in the Old Testament is generational sins: weaknesses or tendencies that are handed down to individuals through the generations from parents or members of a family. These sins can involve behavioral patterns and ways of thinking that keep us trapped in the past.  When Adam and Eve broke the only rule in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2:16-17, God didn’t move, but this couple ran, hiding in shame.

Then the Lord passed by in front of him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (faithfulness); keeping mercy and lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; but He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting (avenging) the iniquity (sin, guilt) of the fathers upon the children and the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations [that is, calling the children to account for the sins of their fathers],” Exodus 34:6-7.

When the news that Aaron, his brother, helped the people of Israel create a golden calf, righteous anger led Moses to break the 10 commandments.  After coming back down the mountain, Moses introduces generation sins with the phrase iniquities of the father.  Any violation of God’s moral law is considered an iniquity.  Thus, each time a father strays from the Word of God, setting a bad example for his children, these sinful tendencies are passed down three to four generations.  Isaac learned how to lie from his father Abraham, Jacob’s family was notorious for disguising the truth and Solomon developed an unwholesome obsession with women after his birth from an adulterous affair.

‘Because the Lord was not able to bring these people into the land which He promised to give them, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.’ 17 But now, please, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, saying, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving wickedness and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting (avenging) the wickedness and guilt of the fathers on the children, to the third and fourth generations [that is, calling the children to account for the sins of their fathers],’ Numbers 14:16-18.

Everyone has some sort of tendency to collect or pick what they see on a daily basis.  This subconscious practice shapes who you and I become.  Some may do this to fit in, others to obtain a hobby with a few to merely pass time.  Nonetheless, the scene in the Garden of Eden is replayed daily when conviction leads to guilt and shame.  Instead of drawing near to God, many run away ashamed, embarrassed and haunted by past mistakes.  When any hopes for perfection are shattered, may the grace of God lead you to stick around.  Wait for God’s forgiveness and mercy to be poured out through confession like a cold glass of water on a hot and humid day.

by Jay Mankus

Playing God

If you take the time to catch up on breaking news, you might notice a disturbing new trend.  Instead of providing the full context of a conversation, sound bytes are used to promote a certain narrative.  Instead of relying on truth, justice and the American way, political allegiances have been formed.  This decision has replaced the Bible with political correctness.  Anyone who does not adhere to this new standard is attacked, exposed and slammed for intolerance.  The idea of a corrupt media was something I thought was impossible, left for nations of dictators from third world nations.  Yet, as the media’s elite begin to play God, redefining right and wrong, I’m afraid of what the future holds.

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment, James 2:13.

In 2009, Paramore released Playing God, a single from their third album Brand News Eyes.  Lead singer Hayley Williams was one of the authors of this song, collaborating with band members Josh Farro and Taylor York.  The music video begins with Hayley sitting in her car, staring at a cross and a button of Jesus on her dashboard.  This time of reflection sets the stage for a new concept, what if God did not introduce freewill?  Instead God used force, to tie people up so they didn’t go where God didn’t want them to be.  While God refuses to participate in this mindset, adults, other siblings and parents from time to time like to play God.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps, Proverbs 16:9.

Known for his wisdom, King Solomon addressed this topic during his day.  According to Solomon, everyone has an idea, a plan for their lives.  While your heart may guide you throughout this life, God ultimately establishes the direction you will take.  Along the way, barriers, obstacles and road blocks stand in your way, altering your course.  Thus, the sooner you start keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, the better off you will be.  Rather than condemning those around you for not following the path of integrity, make sure you show mercy to others so that when you do fall, forgiveness will be extended to you.

by Jay Mankus

 

Losing Your Personality

Charisma, magnetism and presence separates one person from the next.  These qualities are built into human beings like DNA.  Some individuals are born with charm, gravitas and hutzpa, naturally flowing out of their souls.  Other people like me rely on confidence to display their personality.  Unfortunately, when things don’t go your way, depression can cause you to forget or lose sight of who you are and the person God wants you to be.

For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught, Proverbs 3:26.

In their song, Back to the Start, Esterlyn writes about this topic.  While I am not sure if losing your personality is possible, you can lose your way.  When and if this occurs, the author of this song encourages anyone struggling to go back to the start.  Conviction, guilt and remorse has a way of eating at souls.  This nagging feeling can suck the life out of those who dwell on the negative.  Thus, before things get any worse, go back to the foot of the cross, where grace, mercy and forgiveness can be found.

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 2 Corinthians 3:5.

As a recovering perfectionist, this is easier said than done.  Those who give into the desire to strive for perfection usually end up disappointed.  Meanwhile, the temptation to be in control entices individuals to place their sole trust in themselves.  This ill-fated decision blinds minds from God’s willingness to provide daily bread for those who believe.  If today’s blog finds you losing touch with your personality, go back to the start so that your confidence will be placed in the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

More than the World Has to Offer

Regardless of how you were raised, there will always be individuals who embrace a prodigal spirit.  Despite countless warnings, some people have to learn the hard way, ignoring the advice of friends, family and mentors.  For those who go down this path, this could be merely a phase in life before common sense takes over.  However, the longer you indulge your flesh, any reckless binge can become bad habits or in extreme cases resulting in addiction.  After cravings, desires and lust have been satisfied, what else does the world have to offer?

A few days later, the younger son gathered together everything [that he had] and traveled to a distant country, and there he wasted his fortune in reckless and immoral living. 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to do without and be in need, Luke 15:13-14.

Every day throughout the world, a modern version of Garden of Eden takes place as demons, evil spirits and sinful minds justify poor decisions.  The whispers of Satan lurk within minds eager to compromise.  Temptation often begins with “Did God really say or is God keeping me from enlightenment?”  From here its only a matter of time before the fall.  Yet, what are these distracted souls missing?  What does Jesus mean by living water?  How does one obtain an abundant life?  Perhaps, opening the pages of the Bible will open your eyes to an alternative life style that provides more than the world has to offer.

Now the serpent was more crafty (subtle, skilled in deceit) than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And]the serpent (Satan) said to the woman, “Can it really be that God has said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees of the garden, except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘You shall not eat from it nor touch it, otherwise you will die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You certainly will not die! For God knows that on the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened [that is, you will have greater awareness], and you will be like God, knowing [the difference between] good and evil,” Genesis 3:1-5.

One day a Pharisee was curious about a popular first century leader.  Afraid his colleagues might find out, Nicodemus approaches Jesus at night, in the cover of darkness.  Following a sarcastic comment, Jesus reveals his purpose for being born, coming to save mankind, John 3:16-17.  This concept was hard to grasp for a religious zealot like Nicodemus.  During a later conversation with a tax collector, Jesus takes this concept one step further, “coming to seek and to save that which was lost,” Luke 19:10.  Regardless of where you have been or what you have done, Jesus offers a clean slate.  While the world tends to keep a record of wrongs, God offers an infinite amount of grace, mercy and forgiveness.  When you come to your senses, your heavenly father is waiting with open arms.

by Jay Mankus

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