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Spiritual Moments that Matter

Sarcasm is a common response to something unbelievable or a concept too hard to grasp. When Jesus introduced the spiritual concept of being born again, Nicodemus couldn’t wrap his mind around this. Trying to be funny, Nicodemus appears to tease Jesus, imagining a newborn shoved back into their mother’s womb. Jesus wasn’t playing around as this initial conversation leaves behind one of the greatest promises in the Bible, John 3:16-17.

Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to Him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter his mother’s womb again and be born? Jesus answered, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, unless a man is born of water and [[a]even] the Spirit, he cannot [ever] enter the kingdom of God, John 3:3-5.

Another spiritual moment that matters takes place during a parade without floats or a marching band. Jesus’ reputation as a healer and miracle worker had spread throughout the region as countless individuals just wanted to see this man of God. A vertically challenged man named Zacchaeus decided to climb a nearby tree to get Jesus’ attention. This stunt to get noticed works as Jesus takes time from his busy schedule to meet with this corrupt tax collector. This magical meal transformed Zacchaeus’ life.

So then Zacchaeus stood up and solemnly declared to the Lord, See, Lord, the half of my goods I [now] give [by way of restoration] to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone out of anything, I [now] restore four times as much. And Jesus said to him, Today is [[b]Messianic and spiritual] salvation come to [all the members of] this household, since Zacchaeus too is a [real spiritual] son of Abraham; 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:8-10.

These two memorable moments in the Bible magnify how a spiritual conversation can completely change your perspective about life. Jesus didn’t merely talk about living an abundant life. Rather, Jesus put his own personal agenda aside to fulfill God’s purpose for His life. As a Christian, I stride to have a spiritual moment that matters every week. Yet, every day with Jesus during his three-year earthly ministry, the lost got found and hope was restored to those who had given up. May you experience a slice of this abundant life.

by Jay Mankus

Regenerated

I grew up watching the Six Million Dollar Man Starring Lee Majors. When Air Force Colonel Steve Austin crashes during a test flight, many of his damaged body parts are replaced by experimental bionic limbs. In this series’ theme song, the voice over explains that modern scientists have the technology to save his life at a cost of six million dollars. The Bible speaks of a different kind of regeneration. A spiritual one.

You have been regenerated (born again), not from a mortal [d]origin ([e]seed, sperm), but from one that is immortal by the ever living and lasting Word of God. 24 For all flesh (mankind) is like grass, and all its glory (honor) like [the] flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower drops off, 25 But the Word of the Lord ([f]divine instruction, the Gospel) endures forever. And this Word is the good news which was preached to you, 1 Peter 1:23-25.

There are plenty of mornings when I wake up that I feel dead tired, unable to function as I should or want. Like rebooting a computer, how you start your day can make a big difference. In the passage above, Peter refers to a supernatural presence that comes from the Bible. The author of Hebrews refers to this book as living and active with an ability to penetrate your soul, Hebrews 4:12.

For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved ([c]delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself,] Ephesians 2:8-9.

The first discussion about regeneration leaves Nicodemus curious and confused, John 3:1-17. This first century Pharisee was thinking about being born again from a physical aspect. This is the reason for Nicodemus’ sarcasm. Yet, as the Paul apostle mentions in the passage above, spiritual regeneration is unmerited. This free gift is offered to you, Romans 6:23. However, regeneration doesn’t begin until you accept this as your own, Romans 10:9-11. The more you read and learn, the greater your faith grows,

by Jay Mankus

The Guardian of this Galaxy

In 2014, director by James Gunn brought the Guardians of the Galaxy into movie theaters across the country. Seven years later, this superhero film based on the Marvel Comics have added to more films to this series. This team of unlikely superheroes travels the galaxy as arbiters of light. In the middle of the first century, a New Testament was in the process of being written that referred to a spiritual guardian of this galaxy.

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. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

The disciple who Jesus loved remembers one riveting evening. A Pharisee named Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, curious about the teaching he shared at local synagogues. Perhaps afraid of what his peers might say, Jesus talks to Nicodemus becoming born again. Following a sarcastic remark, Nicodemus stops speaking as the Guardian of this galaxy reveals the reason for his trip to earth.

And Jesus said to him, Today is [[b]Messianic and spiritual] salvation come to [all the members of] this household, since Zacchaeus too is a [real spiritual] son of Abraham; 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:9-10.

Two years later, Jesus became like a rock star as large crowds followed Jesus whenever he went. On one particular day, Jesus was passing by Jericho as lines of eager fans wanted to catch a glimpse of this spiritual guardian. One short man climbed a tree, doing everything in his power to get Jesus’ attention. To Zacchaeus’ surprise, Jesus takes time out of his busy schedule to visit his home. It was during this conversation where Jesus, the Guardian of this galaxy unveils his plan, “to seek and to save that which was lost.”

by Jay Mankus

Unsung Heroes of the Night

Early on in the first century, following Jesus became fashionable. One physician shares his recollection of Jesus’ popularity at the end of Luke 9. Eager to follow in the footsteps of the 12 disciples, several individuals sought out Jesus, asking if they too could become a disciple. Luke’s account records 3 rejections with the spiritual reason for this no. In the passage below, Jesus appointed 72 additional disciples, but who are these unsung heroes of the night?

Now after this the Lord chose and appointed seventy others and sent them out ahead of Him, two by two, into every town and place where He Himself was about to come (visit), Luke 10:1.

The disciple whom Jesus loved mentions two of these unsung heroes by name. While 11 disciples abandoned Jesus following his arrest, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus played their part behind the scenes. Joseph went to the governor, convincing him to hand over Jesus’ body to have a proper burial. Meanwhile, a Pharisee who was timid earlier in John 3:1, came out of the darkness to stand tall. According to John, these two men prepared Jesus’ body to be buried.

And after this, Joseph of Arimathea—a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews—asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate granted him permission. So he came and took away His body. 39 And Nicodemus also, who first had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, [weighing] about a hundred pounds. 40 So they took Jesus’ body and bound it in linen cloths with the spices (aromatics), as is the Jews’ customary way to prepare for burial, John 19:38-40.

Two thousand years later, you don’t have to receive an invitation from Jesus to be considered a disciple. Part of the Jesus’ command to first century spiritual leaders, Matthew 28:19-20, is to make disciples. Luke refers to when this call should commence, Acts 1:8, as the Holy Spirit comes upon you. If you want to be an unsung hero for God today, keep in step with God’s Spirit, Galatians 5:25, so you will be ready when God calls you act.

by Jay Mankus

When God Leaves the Backdoor Open

The origin of backdoor dates back to the early 1520’s. Over the past 500 years, this term has evolved from small homes that were built back to back to cultural expressions. The Urban Dictionary refers to taking an alternative route, going behind someone’s back, and or a form of betrayal. The Bible provides accounts of when God leaves the backdoor open.

Now there was a certain man among the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler (a leader, an authority) among the Jews, Who came to Jesus at night and said to Him, Rabbi, we know and are certain that You have come from God [as] a Teacher; for no one can do these signs (these wonderworks, these miracles—and produce the proofs) that You do unless God is with him, John 3:1-2.

As churches throughout the world celebrate Passion Week, Nicodemus is prime example that fits into this category. In the passage above, this Pharisee requests a private meeting with Jesus under the cover of darkness. Afraid of what his peers might think of his curiosity about Jesus, Nicodemus uses the backdoor. As the recipient of John 3:16-17, these words brewed with Nicodemus’ heart.

As for this multitude (rabble) that does not know the Law, they are contemptible and doomed and accursed! 50 Then Nicodemus, who came to Jesus before at night and was one of them, asked, 51 Does our Law convict a man without giving him a hearing and finding out what he has done? 52 They answered him, Are you too from Galilee? Search [the Scriptures yourself], and you will see that no prophet comes (will rise to prominence) from Galilee, John 7:49-52.

The second time Nicodemus is mentioned in the Bible, he defends Jesus in the passage above. Some of his fellow religious leaders suggest that Nicodemus is a secret follower of Jesus. Becoming a Christian usually doesn’t happen over night as many choose to enter faith through the backdoor initially. When the words of the Bible begin to click and fear of what others think about you fades, God leaves the backdoor open, Revelation 3:20, so you can enter when you’re ready.

by Jay Mankus

The Process of Discovery

Discovery is the action of finding, learning, and unearthing information. When a specific topic peaks an interest, individuals often go through an exploratory phase. This initial process of discovery either quenches your thirst, fuels a greater passion or overwhelms souls with the amount of knowledge necessary to continue this pursuit. At the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, a Pharisee named Nicodemus requested a with meeting at night, likely afraid that his peers would make fun of him for seeking the advice from this controversial Rabbi.

Then Nicodemus, who came to Jesus before at night and was one of them, asked, 51 Does our Law convict a man without giving him a hearing and finding out what he has done? 52 They answered him, Are you too from Galilee? Search [the Scriptures yourself], and you will see that no prophet comes (will rise to prominence) from Galilee, John 7:50-52.

Apparently, the concept of becoming born again struck a nerve within Nicodemus, John 3:1-17. Then again, maybe Jesus’ comments on eternal life, John 3:16-17, might have sparked additional interest. While John does not highlight what persuaded Nicodemus to begin his spiritual process of discovery, two different updates are provided by this gospel author. While the chief priests and Pharisees sent guards to arrest Jesus, Nicodemus sticks up for Jesus by reminding his peers the Law requires a man to have a hearing before being convicted.

And Nicodemus also, who first had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, [weighing] about a hundred pounds. 40 So they took Jesus’ body and bound it in linen cloths with the spices (aromatics), as is the Jews’ customary way to prepare for burial.41 Now there was a garden in the place where He was crucified, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever [yet] been laid, John 19:39-41.

The repetition of his initial conversation with Jesus reminds readers of the progress that Nicodemus has made. Starting out as a curious religious leader, afraid of what other Pharisees might think, Nicodemus publicly defends Jesus and then comes back to pay respect following Jesus’ death. If you read between the lines of John’s gospel, Nicodemus’ process of discovery led to eternal life, Romans 10:9-10. When 11 of 12 disciples abandoned Jesus in the final hours of his life, Nicodemus was no longer ashamed or afraid of what others thought. May you fulfill a similar process of discovery by drawing near to God, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

A Secret Truth

Mysteries tend to involve something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. Most children begin their lives stress free, trusting in their parents to provide for their needs. Depending upon their degree of maturity, parents tend to shield their young ones from the dangers of this world. Yet, according to the apostle Paul, human beings can not become partakers of eternal salvation based upon their own merit.

But I tell you this, brethren, flesh and blood cannot [become partakers of eternal salvation and] inherit or share in the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable (that which is decaying) inherit or share in the imperishable (the immortal), 1 Corinthians 15:50.

Following this warning to members at the Church of Corinth, Paul transitions toward a special mystery. Apparently, this secret truth was decreed by the counsel of God. This event is linked to the crucifixion of Jesus, allowed to continue despite Jesus’ innocence for a hidden purpose. This secret truth in unveiled at the end of chapter 15 of Paul’s letter. The sting of death was removed through resurrection of Jesus on Easter.

Take notice! I tell you a mystery (a secret truth, an event decreed by the hidden purpose or counsel of God). We shall not all fall asleep [in death], but we shall all be changed (transformed), 1 Corinthians 15:51.

Jesus spoke of this mystery during a late night conversation with a Pharisee, John 3:1-5. The concept of being born again didn’t make sense to Nicodemus despite his vast religious knowledge. After making a sarcastic comment, Nicodemus shuts up, intrigued by the words of John 3:16-17. Based upon the actions and words within John 7:50-52 and John 19:38-42, Nicodemus put his faith and trust in Jesus. To those of you who are still left in the dark, Romans 10:8-11 unlocks this secret truth.

by Jay Mankus

A Tuesday After the Masters

Since the 2020 Masters has been postponed due to the Coronavirus, all that golf fans have are reruns of previous tournaments to watch this weekend. Hoping to catch an old broadcast last night, I ended up watching a portion of Feherty featuring Bernard Langer. During this interview, Langer spoke of the emptiness following his first major victory, the 1985 Masters. Following a practice round at Hilton Head, South Carolina with Bobby Clampett, Langer was invited to attend a Bible Study on Tuesday night.

Now there was a certain man among the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler (a leader, an authority) among the Jews,Who came to Jesus at night and said to Him, Rabbi, we know and are certain that You have come from God [as] a Teacher; for no one can do these signs (these wonderworks, these miracles—and produce the proofs) that You do unless God is with him. Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God, John 3:1-3.

After consulting with his wife, the Langer’s decided to go, listening to the PGA Tour’s chaplain speak about Nicodemus. As this message was proclaimed, Bernard related to Nicodemus, sensing that there was something more to life, but he didn’t know what it was. This Tuesday following the Master’s sowed for seed in Langer’s heart, a spiritual hunger to become born again. Although his decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior waited, months later Bernard finally yielded over control of his life.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (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. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

After a sarcastic comment in John 3:4, Nicodemus shuts up, listening to the most famous verse in the Bible, up close and in person. Just like Bernard Langer, this encounter gradually changed Nick’s life. Based upon bread crumbs left behind by this disciple in John 7:50-52 and John 19:39, Nicodemus became a follower of Jesus, no longer ashamed to be associated with him. As the clock strikes midnight to announce Easter morning, you don’t need to attend a service to accept Jesus into your life, Romans 10:9-10. If you haven’t made this decision, don’t let this opportunity slip away.

by Jay Mankus

Are You Smarter Than a Pharisee?

Producer Mark Burnett teamed up with host Jeff Foxworthy in 2007 for the game show which challenged adults through the knowledge of kids.  Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader began on Fox and is now in syndication.  Like the classic Jeopardy, this entertaining show allowed viewers to see if they are dumber or smarter than the average 5th grade student.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.  “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” – John 3:3-4

If television existed at the turn of the first century, perhaps Are You Smarter Than a Pharisee would have a caught on.  The first contestant approached Jesus at night, afraid of what his friends might think if seen interacting with Jesus.  Thus, in the cover of darkness, Jesus introduces Nicodemus to the concept of becoming born again.  Similar to the early rounds in Foxworthy’s show, the first few questions are suppose to be softballs.  Unfortunately, Nicodemus over thought this one, responding like a pre-schooler.

No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions, Matthew 22:46.

Shortly before Good Friday, religious leaders attempted to trick Jesus, hoping to catch him contradicting one of God’s laws.  Thus, one by one, shrewd individuals threw out brain teasers for Jesus to answer.  To their surprise, Jesus made quick work of various theoretical situations.  Finally, his opponents gave up, walking away in disappointment.  Unfortunately, few people understand the concept of wise, 1 Corinthians 2:5.  If this blog finds you like Nicodemus over analyzing life, may faith in Christ put you over the top so you will become smarter than a Pharisee.

by Jay Mankus

Vanishing Point

In a world fueled by controversy, negativity and pessimism, its easy to lose sight of the positive.  Affirmations, encouragement and uplifting words often vanish from memories, erased by daily criticism that wound hearts.  This isn’t the only thing to recede, disappearing like the tide going out to sea.

Despite this harsh reality, there is one truth that never vanishes.  According to Psalm 139:13-16, you were knit together in your mother’s womb.  In fact, Jesus takes this one step further, reminding Nicodemus of God’s perfect plan.  According to John 3:16, the expression “so loved” in the Greek refers to from vanishing point to vanishing point.  In other words, before you were born and until your death, God’s love extends throughout time.

When idividuals become aware of this aspect of God’s nature, revival can begin.  Unfortunately, an invisible enemy has blinded the minds of unbelievers, 2 Corinthians 4:4.  All the while, believers are under a difficult kind of attack, pulled in different directions by the world, Galatians 5:16-18.  If this wasn’t enough, the devil is busy stealing, killing and destroying souls.  As the sun sets on another day, don’t allow your thoughts to forget the promises within God’s word, Joshua 1:8, from vanishing point to vanishing point.

by Jay Mankus

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