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Recognize, Perceive and Understand

A coincidence is a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection. Over several decades of attending church, I’ve heard pastors refer to God instances where the hand of God is perceived to perform a miracle. Prior to 1555, the Bible did not contain individual verses. These were added to the Vulgate Bible to help readers identity memorable portions of a book.

By this we come to know (progressively to recognize, to perceive, to understand) the [essential] love: that He laid down His [own] life for us; and we ought to lay [our] lives down for [those who are our] brothers [[l]in Him], 1 John 3:16.

Everyone knows about John 3:16’s popularity as one of the most iconic verses in the Bible. However, do you recognize, perceive or understand a commonality between John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16? The latter is quoting the words of Jesus addressed to a first century Pharisee named Nicodemus. The passage above serves as a reminder so that you recognize, perceive, and understand God’s love for you.

 For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten ([d]unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life, John 3:16.

As I write blogs today, the Holy Spirit urges me to remind my readers of key biblical principles. I often question with a whisper, “are you sure you want me to address this again?” While you may be aware of certain biblical truths, using a new context or illustration often drives home this point in a more powerful way. This is the purpose of 1 John 3:16: serving as a clear reminder of John 3:16-17 so that another generation of Christians will understand the unconditional love of God.

by Jay Mankus

From Shallow to Saved

Shallow people often exhibit a superficial nature due to emptiness, ignorance, and or a tendency to be self-absorbed. Looking back at my adolescence, my bout with stuttering and stammering severely stunted my ability to communicate with my peers. Subsequently, I withdrew from society and hid my pain, so I didn’t embarrass myself in public. Meanwhile, I suppressed my feelings by focusing solely on sports which I began to excel at as I entered high school.

And as He was going into one village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance. 13 And they raised up their voices and called, Jesus, Master, take pity and have mercy on us! – Luke 17:12-13

Following the decree in Leviticus 13:43-46, the ten lepers in today’s passage were forced into quarantine, banned from entering their village until their leprosy was healed. Whenever a healthy person approached, the Jewish law called for each man to proclaim, “I am unclean.” Jesus didn’t come to judge these lepers, but to free them from their contagious disease. Upon hearing the good news of being healed, perhaps the other 9 lepers were too shallow to thank Jesus for this new lease on life.

Then Jesus asked, Were not [all] ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was there no one found to return and to [d]recognize and give thanks and praise to God except this alien? 19 And He said to him, Get up and go on your way. Your faith (your trust and confidence that spring from your belief in God) has restored you to health, Luke 17:17-19

When I was in high school, I acted like the 9 lepers who failed to give thanks and praise to God. I was so consumed by what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go that I neglected the Lord. Rather than open my eyes to all the blessings in my life, my shallow nature prevented me from appreciating the obvious. Yet, when I made the decision to make Jesus my Lord and Savior in college, Romans 10:9-11, I was transformed from shallow to saved. A few years later, God completely healed me of my stuttering like the ten lepers who experienced their own miraculous healing.

by Jay Mankus

Never Prioritize Rules over Goodness and Grace

Legalism is preoccupation with form at the expense of substance. Biblical legalism appears to have had a theological origin in the seventeenth century, when Edward Fisher used it to designate “one who bringeth the Law into the case of Justification.” This comes from The Marrow of Modern Divinity which was published in 1645. While biblical laws distinguish right and wrong, never prioritize rules over goodness and grace. The passage below illustrates this point.

And [the Pharisees] kept watching Jesus [closely] to see whether He would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might get a charge to bring against Him [[b]formally]. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, Get up [and stand here] in the midst. And He said to them, Is it lawful and right on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to take it? But they kept silence, Mark 3:2-4.

Jesus is at a local synagogue with other Jews celebrating the Sabbath. Perhaps, there were rumors that Jesus didn’t follow all of the religious interpretations of what it meant to keep the 4th Commandment. The Pharisees present on this Saturday were so consumed by religious traditions, that the substance of their worship was greatly hindered. Meanwhile, as Jesus approached a man with a shriveled hand, compassion and grace filled His heart. This is why Jesus responds with a question about the Sabbath.

So when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them to give him a gift. And Peter directed his gaze intently at him, and so did John, and said, Look at us! And [the man] paid attention to them, expecting that he was going to get something from them. But Peter said, Silver and gold (money) I do not have; but what I do have, that I give to you: in [the [a]use of] the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk! Then he took hold of the man’s right hand with a firm grip and raised him up. And at once his feet and ankle bones became strong and steady, Acts 3:3-7.

Two disciples find themselves in a similar situation following Jesus’ ascension into heaven. A beggar who was an invalid was hoping the sight of his condition would result in pity and some spare change. Peter and John didn’t care about what any religious leaders in the temple thought. Rather, Peter seizes this opportunity to perform a miracle. Another way of viewing legalism is Jesus’ response in Matthew 22:34-39. The Ten Commandments serve as a guide to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. This is the Golden Rule where goodness and grace trump the legalistic adherence to a set of rules.

by Jay Mankus

When I Ran out of that Grave

According to the apostle Paul, more than 500 people witnessed Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Sometime before Passion Week, Jesus performed a miracle, raising his good friend Lazarus from the dead. While Jesus was dead for three days, Lazarus had been dead for four days. An eye witness of this amazing feat writes about the stench from Lazarus’ decaying body. Nonetheless, moments later Lazarus ran of this grave to embrace friends and family.

Jesus said, Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of the dead man, exclaimed, But Lord, by this time he [is decaying and] throws off an offensive odor, for he has been dead four days! 40 Jesus said to her, Did I not tell you and [a]promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you would see the glory of God? 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 Yes, I know You always hear and listen to Me, but I have said this on account of and for the benefit of the people standing around, so that they may believe that You did send Me [that You have made Me Your Messenger], John 11:39-42.

In one of the apostle Paul’s letters, he refers to Jesus’ resurrection as swallowing up death, 1 Corinthians 15:53-58. This one event has changed the course of history. While Jewish religious leaders bribed Roman soldiers to claim that Jesus’ disciples stole and hid his body, Matthew 28:12-15, those who saw Jesus ascend into heaven quickly disposed of this lie, Acts 1:8-11. When Jesus cancelled the written code of death, Colossians 2:13-15, this one miracle opened the door for eternal life.

When He had said this, He shouted with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out! 44 And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go, John 11:43-44.

In John 21, Jesus appears before his disciples for a third time in his resurrected body. Yet, the scars of the nails that held Jesus to a cross could be felt by a doubting Thomas. While 99.9% of human beings will never experience or see a modern resurrection, for those who pass away on earth, your grave clothes are temporary. For as soon as Jesus returns for His second coming, the dead will arise, run out of their graves and then lifted up to heaven for eternity.

by Jay Mankus

Engaged and Energized

While engagement is often associated with the process leading up to marriage, to be engaged refers to an active, engrossed and involved state. I’ve never thought of prayer in the context of being engaged. However, when the apostle Paul found an isolated spot to pray, Mark 1:35, his concentration was fixated on God. Paul wasn’t just hoping and wishing for an answer to prayer, he expected God to perform a miracle.

We are ever giving thanks to God for all of you, continually mentioning [you when engaged] in our prayers, 1 Thessalonians 1:2.

One verse later, Paul refers to being energized by faith. As Christians begin to pray with an unceasing desire, this is often accompanied with a sudden boost of energy. When you add and incorporate promises in the Bible to prayer, faith is strengthened. Prayer is an act of putting the needs of others before yourself as you pour out your heart to God. When prayer becomes a daily habit, a spirit of service is conceived.

Recalling unceasingly before our God and Father your work energized by faith and service motivated by love and unwavering hope in [the return of] our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), 1 Thessalonians 1:3.

In the first century, there was a belief that Jesus would return in their own lifetime. For those individuals who witnessed Jesus rise from the dead, there was a sense of urgency to seize each day on earth, Galatians 6:9-10. This is the motivation that the apostle Paul refers to in the passage above. If you want to make the most of your life on earth, engage yourself in prayer so that your faith is energized to keep on serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Fearless Before Evil

The Bible refers to evil as any mindset that which is opposed to God and His purposes. While the word evil can refer to anything that causes harm, everything that contradicts the holy nature of God is considered evil in God’s eyes. With or without the moral dimension, evil has a way of infiltrating lives in subtle ways. When evil attaches itself to human lives, individuals will begin to act out in anger, often through emotional outbursts. Unfortunately, when evil behavior is confronted, defense mechanisms activate, forming a wall that can divide and further separate rocky relationships.

Elijah replied, I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, by forsaking the commandments of the Lord and by following the Baals. 19 Therefore send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of [the goddess] Asherah, who eat at [Queen] Jezebel’s table. 20 So Ahab sent to all the Israelites and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, How long will you halt and limp between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him! But if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word, 1 Kings 18:18-21.

As Christians mature in their faith, the goal is to recognize evil with a readiness to stand up to it as a moments notice. One of the greatest examples of this in the Bible occurs when Elijah persuades 950 secular prophets into a spiritual duel. Instead of using weapons, Elijah comes up with a proposal to call fire down from heaven. The winner of this challenge will be the first to have their God bring fire down from. Although no coin flip was used to determine the order, Elijah allows followers of Asherah and Baal to go first. If you read the entire passage, 1 Kings 18:18-29, Elijah is so confident that he begins taunting these unsuccessful prophets.

At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened. 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with knives and lances until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 Midday passed, and they played the part of prophets until the time for offering the evening sacrifice, but there was no voice, no answer, no one who paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, Come near to me. And all the people came near him. And he repaired the [old] altar of the Lord that had been broken down [by Jezebel], 1 Kings 18:27-30.

When these secular prophets finally gave up, Elijah goes to extremes to prove that the God of Abraham is Lord. Instead of appeasing these prophets, Elijah repaired an altar previously smashed by his opponents and prepared an offering to God. To prove a point, Elijah fills the area around his sacrifice with water, knowing what His Lord was about to do. On this day upon Mount Carmel, Elijah stared evil in the face and won. According to eye witnesses of this miracle, God sent fire down from heaven, consumed Elijah’s sacrifice and licked up all of the water in the trench that was dug. As evil continues to ravage cities, communities and states, may Elijah’s testimony inspire readers to be fearless before evil today.

by Jay Mankus

Open My Eyes Through Faith

Paul Baloche was sitting in a pew, listening to his pastor pray for the congregation. Upon hearing the expression “Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, that we may see you,” Baloche was inspired to write a song. Baloche’s soul was touched by the wisdom of this prayer request. As Paul Harvey once said on his radio broadcast, “and now you know The Rest of the Story.”

When the water in the bottle was all gone, Hagar caused the youth to lie down under one of the shrubs. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about a bowshot, for she said, Let me not see the death of the lad. And as she sat down opposite him, he lifted up his voice and wept and she raised her voice and wept, Genesis 21:15-16.

After Sarah convinced Abraham to cast out one of his maid servants, Hagar and Ishmael were forced into the wilderness to find a new place to live. When Hagar ran out of water, she lost hope, laying down her child in the shade under a shrub. Unsure of what to do next, Hagar found an appropriate place to weep and cry out to the Lord. Sensing death was near, the Lord sent an angel to encourage Hagar. Despite being consumed by despair, the Lord opened Hagar’s eyes to a miracle, an empty bottle now filled with water.

And God heard the voice of the youth, and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven and said to her, What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the youth where he is. Arise, raise up the youth and support him with your hand, for I intend to make him a great nation. 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the [empty] bottle with water and caused the youth to drink, Genesis 21:17-19.

The Coronavirus has forced the world to view life through a new lens and perspective. The idea of sitting down with friends inside a restaurant seems like a foreign concept today. Yet, sometime in the near future, the fears of COVID-19 will pass, replaced by a new concern, fear or worry. However, as long as desperate hearts cry out to the Lord in prayer, your eyes will be opened to see all the good things God provides, James 1:17. This is my prayer for 2021 that eyes will be opened through faith in Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

When Bad Things Start to Happen

According to C.S. Lewis, there are 2 theories which explain why bad things happen to good people: dualism and the Christian view.  Dualism believes there are 2 independent powers, one good and another bad that are in conflict with each other resulting in good or bad things.  The Christian view is based upon Galatians 5:16-18, detailing the cosmic battle between Lucifer and the Holy Spirit.  The X-Factor is freewill as whenever temptation results in a bad choice or decision, the lives of innocent bystanders are at risk.

For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do, Galatians 5:17.

As a former assistant and playing professional, I’ve seen a lot of bad things happen on golf courses.  To the average spectator, the final result is what matters.  However, the slightest gust of wind can ruin a great shot that only the player hitting a golf ball knows.  Meanwhile, an amateur, casual golfer or kid have hit foul balls that glance off a tree, bounce down a cart path and skip over a water hazard, ending up on the green.  Now, that’s a miracle!  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen many of these go my way on a golf course.

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere, Ephesians 6:12.

One of the hardest parts of life is seeing a rising star’s life cut short due to cancer, a car accident or suicide.  To make matters worse is standing there at a funeral watching parents grieve, grasping to make sense of their loss.  At the end of one ceremony, a mother whispered into my ear, “I pray that the words you taught my daughter in Bible class were etched upon her heart.”  When bad things start to happen, the frailty of life is put into perspective, Job 34:15.  From dust man was created and to dust we will return.  All we can do now is enjoy each day the Lord gives us on earth.

by Jay Mankus

Living in a Land of Lions

When you read the Old Testament, certain sections are clear and concise. God’s nature is often revealed by using specific commands to illustrate the importance of obedience. Those who follow the Lord are blessed and those who fail to follow God’s directions are cursed. There is no halfway, it’s either all or nothing.

Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; the words which he had spoken to the king they told also to their father. 12 Their father asked them, Which way did he go? For his sons had seen which way the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13 He said to his sons, Saddle the donkey for me. So they saddled the donkey and he rode on it, 1 King 13:11-13.

In the passage above and below, a prophet of the Lord is fooled by a lie. Apparently, this liar was paid off by King Jeroboam, persuaded to prophecize good and positive messages to enhance his reign. When news of a miracle performed by a visiting prophet from Judah reach this wayward man, he was desperate to meet him. When his own sons were unsuccessful, this discredited prophet makes up an encounter with an angel to change his mind.

He said, I may not return with you or go in with you, neither will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. 17 For I was told by the word of the Lord, You shall not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way that you came. 18 He answered, I am a prophet also, as you are. And an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied to him. 19 So the man from Judah went back with him and ate and drank water in his house, 1 Kings 13:16-19.

Taking this man at his word, this young prophet disobeys God by staying an extra day in this corrupt land. Although a loving God would forgive modern transgressions, God’s command was to not eat or drink another meal before leaving. While this doesn’t seem fair, obedience matters to God. Thus, while bending the rules on this occasion seemed okay, a lion was sent to kill this prophet on his way back home to Judah.

And after the prophet of the house had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the donkey for the man he had brought back. 24 And when he had gone, a lion met him by the road and slew him, and his corpse was cast in the way, and the donkey stood by it; the lion also stood by the corpse. 25 And behold, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown in the road, and the lion standing by the corpse, and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt. 26 When the prophet who brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, It is the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and slain him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to him, 1 Kings 13:23-26.

This story is mentioned in the Bible to serve as a remainder that obedience matters. Making up the rules as you go isn’t an option for a servant of God. While those outside the church may get away with telling a lie from time to time, you can’t fool God as Paul suggests in Galatians 6:7-8. You reap what you sow. Although you probably won’t cross paths with a lion, make sure you’re sowing seeds of encouragement rather than lies of deceit.

by Jay Mankus

When Jesus Wants Your Lunch

Just prior to one of the most memorable miracles in the Bible, Jesus makes an unusual request. Testing the faith of Philip, Jesus asks his disciple to take an inventory of what food was on hand. As the crowds approached 5,000 men, excluding women and children, the disciples began to panic, urging Jesus to send the people home. Instead, 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish are taken from a little boy, requesting this lunch to be shared with the others.

“There is a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are these for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down [to eat].” Now [the ground] there was [covered with] an abundance of grass, so the men sat down, about 5,000 in number, John 6:9-10.

Perhaps, Jesus is trying to teach this boy a valuable life lesson. Until you are willing to give, you won’t receive the blessing that God has in store for you. Jesus took that which was offered, 5 loaves and 2 fish and blessed it. Whether everyone closed their eyes during this prayer or not, some how this offering miraculously multiplied filling the stomachs of several thousand people.

Then Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them to those who were seated; the same also with the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they had eaten enough, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and they filled twelve large baskets with pieces from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten, John 6:11-13.

An Old Testament prophet refers to robbing God in Malachi 3:8-12 by not offering a tithe in faith. This biblical terms eludes to the feeding of the 5000. Most boys aren’t going to share a big lunch with a crowd of strangers. Yet. as individuals learn to trust God to replace what they have freely given with the storehouses from heaven, miracles are unleashed. This blog is a prime example that the next time Jesus wants your lunch, be confident that the Lord will provide.

by Jay Mankus

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