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The Service and Intervention of Jesus

When most Americans hear the term service, entering the military after high school is a practical way to serve your country. In recent years, public schools have used MLK Day as a way to give back to their local community. If you attend a church or belong to a group, service projects are a popular way of serving the less fortunate and those in need after a major storm or natural disaster.

Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross! – Philippians 2:5-8

While service tends to be an isolated activity for a day, weekend or entire week, an intervention is an immediate act taken to improve a dire situation. The apostle Paul does a great job of explaining mankind’s problem in Romans 5:8. Like a virus that doesn’t go away, sin slowly decays human beings via addictions, bad habits, and poor choices. Despite being undeserving, Jesus spent 3 years on earth serving God so that this spiritual intervention could be completed.

And God purposed that through (by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross, Colossians 1:20.

The entire book of Colossians is dedicated to the service and intervention of Jesus. This restoration project began in Genesis 3:14-15. In desperate need of a second Adam, Romans 5:12-21 explains how this plan was fulfilled through Jesus. Serving as a perfect Lamb of God, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Jesus became a sin offering for all who believe. When Jesus became obedient to death on a cross, the service and intervention of Jesus was completed on Easter Sunday. This is why the gospel refers to the good news about Jesus Christ, a servant who intervened on our behalf.

by Jay Mankus

Evil Persuasions

As a prerequisite for any discussion about evil in this world, moral evil must be distinguished from physical or natural evil. While natural disasters are often defined as acts of God by insurance companies to avoid going bankrupt, drunk individuals who decide to get behind the wheel of their vehicle exercise freewill. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis are natural phenomena’s that occur throughout the world annually. The aftermath of these natural events may be associated with a curse or some form of punishment. Meanwhile, physical evil exists when human beings find themselves under the influence of a drug, foreign substance or evil spirit.

This [evil] persuasion is not from Him Who called you [Who invited you to freedom in Christ], Galatians 5:8.

In a first century letter, the apostle Paul suggests that witchcraft infiltrated one particular church, Galatians 3:1. Paul uses the expression of being under a spell cast by a religious sect who were adding and subtracting from the apostles teaching. A modern way of saying this might be something like, “wake up and smell the coffee.” Evil has a way of slowly and subtly changing people. The Psalmist illustrates this in the very first verse, Psalm 1:1. Evil persuasions begin with counsel that deviates from the Bible. For those who are curious like Eve in Genesis 3:1-6, evil has a way of luring you to take stances that you normally wouldn’t. Anyone who continues down this road will eventually participate by joining in evil acts.

Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character. 34 Awake [from your drunken stupor and return] to sober sense and your right minds, and sin no more. For some of you have not the knowledge of God [you are utterly and willfully and disgracefully ignorant, and continue to be so, lacking the sense of God’s presence and all true knowledge of Him]. I say this to your shame, 1 Corinthians 15:33-34.

The Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day understood this principle. Thus, when Jesus began to associate with and reach out to sinners, Matthew 9:10-11, they were leary of Jesus’ intentions. Yet, when you are the light of the world, the greater the darkness provided opportunities to expose evil. However, for everyone else who isn’t the son of God, Paul needed to remind first century Christians of a biblical truth in the passage above. Whatever good intentions that you may have, over time bad character will corrupt godly individuals. Therefore, unless you have access to an accountable group to cover you in prayer, it doesn’t take much for evil persuasions to cause a once mighty saint to slip toward the dark side.

by Jay Mankus

He’ll Keep You from Falling

If you listen to news updates while driving or watch a portion of the evening news, the headlines can be depressing. Whether it’s chaos in the streets, the latest natural disaster to strike, deadly shootings or riots, the human soul can only take so much pain. At some point, you have to change the channel or tune out these negative vibes designed to stir up emotions.

It is these who are [agitators] setting up distinctions and causing divisions—merely sensual [creatures, carnal, worldly-minded people], devoid of the [Holy] Spirit and destitute of any higher spiritual life, Jude 1:1.

If you ever reach a point in life where you feel like you can’t take it anymore, the Bible introduced me to a friend who can keep you from falling. Despite the agitators, politicians and self seeking individuals who can’t wait to get in front of microphone, there is a God who can prevent you from slipping off the deep end. An invisible hand to pull you back.

But you, beloved, build yourselves up [founded] on your most holy faith [make progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher], praying in the Holy Spirit; 21 Guard and keep yourselves in the love of God; expect and patiently wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah)—[which will bring you] unto life eternal. And refute [so as to] convict some who dispute with you, and on some have mercy who waver and doubt. 23 [Strive to] save others, snatching [them] out of [the] fire; on others take pity [but] with fear, loathing even the garment spotted by the flesh and polluted by their sensuality. 24 Now to Him Who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present [you] unblemished (blameless and faultless) before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exultation [with unspeakable, ecstatic delight]-Jude 1:20-24.

The passage above is from one of the universal letters sent to Christians scattered throughout the world following their persecution in Rome. Jude received a vision of what the last days on earth would look like prior to Jesus’ second coming. On any given night in Chicago, New York, Portland or Seattle, Jude’s warning has become a reality, surrounded by agitators. Yet, when you put your faith and trust in Jesus, God will keep you from falling.

by Jay Mankus

When Your World Has Been Shaken

Some reporters have compared the Coronavirus to the millennials 9/11. Since my youngest two children were born after September 11th, 2001, I understand this comparison. For me, I remember exactly where I was when I first received news of two airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers. At this time in history, I was an independent contractor and regional staff writer for Travel Golf Media. Both of my positions were impacted as air travel ceased until new safety standards were implemented. Yet, as the Coronavirus continues to reap havoc throughout America, life as we know it has been disturbed and shaken.

There he came to a cave and lodged in it; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah? 10 He replied, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I, I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away, 1 Kings 19:9-10.

The Old Testament details a story about a prophet whose own world had been shaken. According to the passage above, the Israelites had turned their back on God, turning a deaf ear to Elijah. Beside feeling useless, altars dedicated to the Lord were discarded from mountain tops. In addition, Elijah’s friends were all killed at the hands of Jezebel. Without any signs of improvement, this former spiritual leader had lost the will to live, giving up hope that God could alter his situation. As a way to get Elijah’s attention, a series of natural disasters struck the land. Taking notice, Elijah did not see the Lord as the source behind the tornado, earthquake and fire. Yet, after these storms, Elijah was ready to hear God’s still small voice.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

Well, if you live in a state like Delaware, you are now under a stay at home order. Normal outdoor sports are now out of the equation, on hold until the Coronavirus fades or dies out. Sure, you can go to the grocery store, get gas and take a walk around the block, but that’s it. So… what is one to do with their life when your world has been shaken? Well, after you binge watch your favorite show or series, dusting off the Bible would be a step in the right direction. The great aspect of free will is that God doesn’t force you to anything. The choices that you make throughout life will shape who you become. May this forced time at home due to the Coronavirus draw you near to God as the world around us continues to be shaken.

by Jay Mankus

The Oracles of God

From a biblical perspective, an oracle refers to a priest or priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from God. Whenever a forefather, judge or king was about to make an important decision in the Old Testament, prophets and seers were requested. Depending upon the oracle received, these leaders would base their ultimate decision upon these words of wisdom.

Then what advantage remains to the Jew? [How is he favored?] Or what is the value or benefit of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, to the Jews were entrusted the oracles (the brief communications, the intentions, the utterances) of God, Romans 3:1-2.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses logic and reason to justify the Jewish practice of circumcision. As individuals follow the Torah, Old Testament laws relayed to Israel from Moses, spiritual insight is gained. However, this process is exercised by talking steps of faith, not by sight. As the faithful follow their spiritual convictions, brief communication, intentions and utterances from God are received.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

It’s not uncommon to feel like the prophet Elijah in the passage above. There are moments, periods and time when God is silent and believers feel all alone, desperate for comfort and direction. During this ordeal, Elijah withdrew to a cave to contemplate his next step, In the minutes that followed, a series of weather related events got Elijah’s attention. Despite the wonder and awe of these natural disasters, God was not behind these events. As Elijah’s spirit grew impatient, an oracle of God appeared in the form of a whisper. May this story encourage you to be ready for the next oracle to be spoken via the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Amazing the Difference One Day Makes

If you do a search of “what a difference a day makes,” you will find a series of sermons on this topic.  Some use examples of extreme events such as the dropping of the first atomic bomb, experiencing a natural disaster or witnessing a terrorist attack like September 11th, 2001.  These devastating days are compared to the silence of an aftermath, where time seems to stand still.  Whenever trials arise, individuals are forced to confront change, trusting God one day at a time.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.

For any of you who have played golf before, a typical round is similar to the quote from Forrest Gump, “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you will get.”  Unlike any other sport, practicing doesn’t mean you will improve.  The more you play golf, the easier it becomes to pick up bad habits.  Thus, a bad swing, chip or putt can unlock demons of doubt that will haunt you throughout the rest of your round.  This is what my daughter Lydia endured during his first round of this years Girls Delaware Junior Golf Championship.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

Following the first round, my daughter wanted to quit golf.  Twenty four hours later, Lydia figured something out on the range prior to her round and everything clicked.  Beside a few holes, she was either chipping or putting for birdie.  Despite a few three putts, Lydia played the round of her life consistently hitting her driver over 200 yards.  There are certain things in life that don’t make any sense.  Yet, when attitudes awake to a new day and confidence returns, it’s amazing the difference one day makes.

by Jay Mankus

Sticks and Stones Wound Souls

Whenever anyone experiences a series of bad breaks, those close to this individual may begin to wonder why suffering, tribulations and unfortunate events have visited their friend.  In the Old Testament, bad and good were often linked to God.  Thus, a mentality developed to associate anything good with blessings and the bad as some sort of curse from God.  This is the context of the passage below as Job has listened to his friends attempt to explain the freak accidents and natural disaster that destroyed his possessions and took the lives of his children.

“I also could speak like you, If you were in my place; I could compose and join words together against you and shake my head at you,” Job 16:4.

Job calls out those who have made numerous accusations against him.  One of the translations refers to words that can tear you into pieces.  Essentially, Job states that anyone can sit back and point their finger in the direction of blame.  Yet, Job refuses to participate in this futile activity.  Rather, Job turns his attention toward seeking God to find understanding for his recent trials.  In today’s volatile climate of daily verbal assaults against those the media disagrees with politically, this is an important lesson to learn.

A [shortsighted] fool always loses his temper and displays his anger, but a wise man [uses self-control and] holds it back, Proverbs 29:11.

The phrase sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me first appeared in 1872.  Mrs. George Cupples presented this saying as advice in Tappy Chicks: and Other Links Between Nature and Human Nature.  While this piece of wisdom attempts to develop mental toughness, the Bible reveals a different story.  When anger or tempers influence language, critical words inflict wounds to human souls.  While there are no initial bruises like marks from sticks and stones, vulnerable hearts take each blow.  Before anyone person gets hurt or killed like the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis, Maryland, its time to lay down your weapons so that healing may begin now.

by Jay Mankus

Costing More Than Its Worth

 

In times of crisis or natural disaster, the normal rule of law is often overlooked.  Thus, when Hurricane Katrina brought mass flooding to New Orleans, looters were rampant, taking whatever they could find and carry.  These acts of transgressions were excused as people were forced to go into survivor mode.

People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving, Proverbs 6:30.

In the days when Israel was a thriving nation, a similar mindset occurred.  Anyone thought to steal due to hunger pains wasn’t as criticized as one who committed crimes out of greed.  Nonetheless, Jewish law stated that anyone caught would have to pay back 7 times the amount stolen,  Thus, crime doesn’t pay, costing more than its worth.

Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house, Proverbs 6:31.

Solomon takes this concept one step further, comparing adultery to stealing.  This analogy is considered out of date by Hollywood, especially as the biblical concept of marriage fades from American culture.  This moral decline reveals a downward trend with no end in sight.  Despite the lack of a moral conscience, its essential to spread the word that poor decisions cost more than a moment of pleasure is worth.

by Jay Mankus

Isolated Showers

 From a meteorology perspective, weather systems can stall on occasion, creating isolated showers in the same location for hours or in a worst cause scenario for days at a time.  This phenomena is known as a stationary front, where a boundary is formed between two air masses neither of which replaces the other.  Whenever a weather system travels less than 6 miles per hour, its deemed to be stationary.  Unique wind conditions makes this possible as the north side of a stationary front move in a East to West direction.  Meanwhile, on the southern edge, winds reverse, moving from West to East.

 

According to a September 15th article in the U.S.A. Today, experts are blaming an unusually strong ridge of high pressure parked over Western Canada for the deadly flooding in the Boulder region of Colorado.  Over one month later, hundreds of people are still unaccounted for, likely washed away in the torrent rapids flowing down the Rocky Mountains.  This natural disaster has conjured up memories of the Big Thompson flash flood of 1976 where 144 were killed just north of Boulder.  Those who believe in God often struggle to make sense of these storms, wrestling for answers to grasp why.

 

Although every geographic area does not encounter the same natural disasters, all regions experience isolated showers.  Literal storms can bring lightning, thunder and heavy rains.  Spiritual storms offer a different challenge, testing your faith, patience and soul.  While people can seek shelter for isolated showers, life’s trials are often unexpected, resulting in an invisible tsunami attempting to wipe you out spiritually.  It’s not if these isolated showers will occur, but when.  Therefore, when a spiritual stationary front knocks on your door, arm yourself with the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:24-27.

by Jay Mankus

Full Force Nature

 

In their original series Full Force Nature. the Weather Channel credits Mother Nature for these awe inspiring events.  The purpose of each 30 minute episode is to rebroadcast extreme weather conditions caught on film.  However, before the days of phone, ipad and video cameras, historians who survived nature’s full force recorded similar natural disasters.

One such phenomena took place around 1450 years before Christ was born.  According to Moses, an eyewitness, a horrific storm pounded Egypt in Exodus 9:13-32.  This passage reveals God’s anger toward Pharaoh as the Lord unleashes his full power, not holding anything back.  Based upon Moses’ description, lightning, thunder and golf ball sized hail pelted any animals, crops, homes or people who were unprepared.  If we are to take Moses at his word in Exodus 9:23-26, no storm can compared to this massive system sent by the hand of God.

Since God warned Egypt, those who feared God took immediate measures, Exodus 9:20, while the ignorant and skeptics were caught with their pants down.  Unfortunately, in real life, God get’s all the blame for destruction and Mother Nature get’s a pass except for the beautiful days.  Unless you consider the film A Year Without A Santa Claus when most people gave Santa the credit for snow on Christmas Eve.  My point is that you can’t have it both ways, either God created it, He allowed it to happen or scientific conditions for a Perfect Storm merged forming a super cell.

James, the earthly brother of Jesus paints an unique picture.  Like Pharaoh, James doubted Jesus, not able to comprehend God’s full force nature until some how his big brother rose from the dead. Acts 1:3.  This front row seat transformed his perspective of God in James 1:16-17.  James was deceived by the world, unable to grasp the truth until he was confronted by a ghost, a resurrected Christ.  Hopefully, you don’t have to endure an earthquake, hurricane or tornado before you become a believer.  May you share in the promise of James 1:18, passed on by an eyewitness to God’s full force nature.

by Jay Mankus

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