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God’s Endgame

The term endgame is an expression from the game of chess. Dating back to the 1850’s, endgame refers to the final stage when few pieces remain on the board. When a player’s remaining piece or pieces are trapped, it’s only a matter of time before your opponent declares, “check mate.” From a spiritual perspective, God has always remained one step ahead of the Devil. Just as he was reveling in his victory over Adam and Eve, God’s endgame is revealed in Genesis 3:14-15. While the Devil acquired authority as ruler of the air as spoils for his triumph, Ephesians 2:2, Jesus is sent as a second Adam to change the momentum in this spiritual game of chess.

And Jesus said to him, Today is [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.

According to the apostle Paul, there is no one on earth who is capable of pleasing God, Romans 3:10-12. No matter how determined you may be to achieve perfection, it won’t be long before your weaknesses are exposed. Subsequently, human beings are flawed creatures, unable to turn off their curious nature. Whether you wander into darkness or sit on the fence, watching the grass on the other side, everyone screws up. In the passage above, Jesus meets with a corrupt politician who always took more than was necessary. Despite over taxing and stealing from his constituents, Jesus’ endgame was to seek and to save those who were lost.

For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live], Ephesians 2:10.

The game changer for sinners occurs in Romans 5:8. Despite all of our imperfections, God sent his son Jesus to die on our behalf. When Jesus was finally pronounced dead on the cross, Matthew 27:50, the Devil was lulled into a false sense of security. Believing this chess match was over, the Devil convinced one of Jesus’ disciples to take his own life, Matthew 27:5. Jesus died so that individuals could be raised back to life spiritually using this same resurrection power. The apostle Paul uses an illustration in Colossians 3:1-9 as you put to death your old life you can be recreated in Christ Jesus. God’s endgame introduces grace to the lost, God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Whatever you endure, don’t forget God’s endgame.

by Jay Mankus

The Expression of Man’s Glory

As someone who pursued civil engineering for a year in college, there is a great sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a project. This satisfaction inspired me to design over 20 golf courses on an old Cad software program. Although I have never been commissioned to design a real golf course, I have images sketched in my mind of what this piece of property will be transformed into when the opportunity arises. Perhaps, this degree of planning explains why God was so pleased with His finished creation on earth.

God said, Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] make mankind in Our image, after Our likeness, and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the [tame] beasts, and over all of the earth, and over everything that creeps upon the earth. 27 So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them, Genesis 1:26-27.

Creation is the action and process of bringing something into existence. Based upon the passage above, the Trinity came together to collaborate on this masterpiece. Genesis one provides a day by day summary of God’s progress of transforming an empty wasteland. Upon bringing life to planet earth and the universe around it, God was filled with a sense of joy. Like putting the finishing touches on a Mona Lisa, Creation was completed in six days. Thus, God rested on the seventh to appreciate what was finished.

For a man ought not to wear anything on his head [in church], for he is the image and [reflected] glory of God [his function of government reflects the majesty of the divine Rule]; but woman is [the expression of] man’s glory (majesty, preeminence), 1 Corinthians 11:7.

While reflecting upon Creation, the apostle Paul uses a couple of interesting terms. The creation of Adam is referred to as the reflected glory of God. Meanwhile, Eve’s formation out of a rib from Adam is described as the expression of man’s glory. While these words would be considered chauvinist today, this is how first century men depicted creation. Instead of getting sidetracked by divisive words, each human being who walks the face of the earth is a precious treasure, a reflection of God’s glory.

by Jay Mankus

The Way of the World

Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis star in the 2012 comedy the Candidate.  From a comedy perspective, this is one of my least favorite Ferrell film.  The plot involves two North Carolinians vying for a seat in Congress.  Each opponent stoops to new lows, doing whatever it takes to win.  Backed by millionaires who seek to turn this district into the epi center for a Chinese based factory, Zach Galifianakis‘ character takes a substantial lead in the polls.  As election day approaches, the underdog who is now the favorite refuses to sell his district to the Chinese.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever, 1 John 2:15-17.

This decision results in losing the backing of his donors.  Despite being a comedy movie, this scene could have been a real life example of headlines on a cable news networks.  Before leaving the home of these donors, Zach Galifianakis‘ eyes are opened to the way of the world.  Money controls politics; if you follow the money, you will see the motives behind financial contributions.  In the real world, billionaires like George Soros annually creates, donates and supports the backings of groups that will further his political agenda.  From an integrity perspective, there aren’t many politicians left who can’t be bought.  Unfortunately, those holding out for the truth are often attacked, criticized or demonized.

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God, James 4:4.

The earthly brother of Jesus, one of Mary’s other sons, makes a strong statement about the way of the world.  Apparently, you can’t be a friend of God and the world at the same time.  James compares playing both sides of the fence to adultery.  A decision to befriend the world is considered a hostile act.  The apostle Paul clarifies this concept in Romans 8:5-8.  When minds become set on the sinful nature, it’s impossible to please God.  Therefore, the next time you find yourself on the verge tasting temporary pleasures, Turkish delight, flee before you are bewitched by the world.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Carnivore or Vegetarian?

A carnivore are creatures that feed on the flesh of other animals. Any mammal that falls into this classification eats mainly meat. Meanwhile, vegetarians are at the other end of this spectrum, consuming mainly fruits and vegetables. This dietary lifestyle is often inspired by health, moral or religious convictions. According to a 2017 study, only 2% of Americans are vegetarians with 1/4 of these individuals claiming to be vegan.

But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile (taint, dishonor) himself with the king’s finest food or with the wine which the king drank; so he asked the commander of the officials that he might [be excused so that he would] not defile himself, Daniel 1:8. But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Please, test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink, Daniel 1:11-12.

Every year pastors of certain congregations participate in a Daniel Fast at the beginning of January. When Israelites were taken into captivity by Babylon, one man was unwilling to change his strict diet. The passage above details to very first Daniel Fast. Similar to Catholics who give up eating meat during the season of Lent, fasting enables believers to focus on God for a specific period of time. Since Old Testament law prohibited Jews from eating food from unclean animals, taking steps to become a vegetarian is a way to honor and please God.

For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose]. Now the mind of the flesh is death [both now and forever—because it pursues sin]; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace [the spiritual well-being that comes from walking with God—both now and forever]; Romans 8:5-6.

The New Testament reveals the spiritual symbolism between carnivores and vegetarians. In the passage above, the apostle Paul compares carnal desires to fleshly desires. In a letter to Galatia, this behavior is described as a sinful nature, contrary to what God desires. Instead of including vegetables within this analogy, the polar opposite of carnal desires is the Holy Spirit. Thus, eating healthy is one thing. However, obeying God has spiritual ramifications. The apostle Paul compares this to a battle between mind over matter. While deciding to be a carnivore or vegetarian is optional, God demands followers of Christ to steer clear of carnal desires.

by Jay Mankus

Guilt by Association

Television is filled with shows based upon the concept guilt by association.  Whether you prefer dramas like Bones, Castle, CSI or NCIS, each follow a similar format.  A death, murder or victim is found in the opening scene.  Crime scene investigators collect evidence, put together a list of suspects and use modern technology to solve each case.  Initially, the obvious culprits are interviewed leading the audience in one direction before a twist or turn take authorities to a previously unknown person of interest.  Although some episodes are based upon true stories, viewers of these programs should be weary of their own friends with troubled pasts.

Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example], Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers), Psalm 1:1.

The first chapter of the longest book in the Bible addresses guilt by association.  The passage above provides a short list of what to do and what not to do.  The author uses walking to illustrate how you can begin hanging out the wrong people.  Though walking is an innocent act, its like an open door into another world.  The further you walk with someone, the more you begin to accept, embrace and stand for ungodly beliefs.  However, the moment you sit down with this crowd, joining and participating in similar acts commences.  This passage serves as a warning, encouraging souls to avoid guilt by association through seeking God’s blessings.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night.  And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season; Its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity], Psalm 1:2-3.

The passage above provides a blueprint for those who desire to please God.  Meditating on God’s Word, the Bible helps prevent individuals from walking, standing and joining inappropriate acts, behavior and deeds.  Meanwhile, spiritual disciplines like Bible Study, prayer and worship rejuvenate souls daily as if drinking from the living water mentioned in John 4:14.  If you clearly want to avoid guilt by association in the future, live out the apostle Paul’s advice in Colossians 2:6-7 to become deeply rooted in Christ.

by Jay Mankus

 

When I Can’t Find My Way Out

Although you may not know or recognize it, everyone has their own kryptonite.  This weakness makes human beings limited, powerless or at best, vulnerable to attacks from the enemy.  For me, I can be directionally challenged, regularly losing my way.  Stubbornness only worsens my condition, trusting in myself instead of leaning on outside sources like modern technology.  Unfortunately, some people never make the necessary changes, unable to find their way out of addiction, bad habits or poor choices.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did, 1 Corinthians 10:6.

The author of the book of 1 Corinthians uses history as a way of understanding the past.  As the apostle Paul reflects upon the foundation of Israel as a nation, most died before ever seeing God’s promise fulfilled.  Whether ignorance, selfishness or a lack of vision was to blame, the majority did not please God.  Instead of appreciating manna from heaven, greed led souls to demand more.  God was treated like a grocery clerk at a check out line, praying for this or that without any regard for developing an intimate relationship.  Thus, the wilderness serves as a remainder of what not to do.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.  So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it, 1 Corinthians 10:11-13.

What I fail to comprehend about the nature of God is that the Lord uses wilderness phases in life to prepare us for what’s next.  If you don’t adapt, learn or mature during these trials, you won’t be ready to succeed in the future.  While guarding angels are working behind the scenes to usher in the good things God has planned for us, Philippians 1:6, I often get in the way.  Impatience wants me to quickly skip ahead to the next journey in life before overcoming present obstacles.  Thus, it’s sad to say that I can’t find my way out, leaving me stuck living in the wilderness of broken dreams.  Perhaps, 1 Corinthians 10:13 contains the key, the missing link to take those living in defeat toward the door of victory.  May you endure this present life long enough so that the way out is revealed to you through whispers of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

 

Are You Sure About That God?

From time to time, God will call his followers to step out in faith.  While this is expected to a certain extent, some requests go beyond logic.  Noah was asked to build an ark before rain existed.  A man plagued with stuttering, Moses, was urged to confront Pharaoh to let Israel go.  Meanwhile Joshua was encouraged to go into battle with a marching band of trumpets.  At some point I’m sure all three of these men likely pondered, “are you sure about that God?”

Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, Genesis 2:5.

The book of Hebrews emphasizes that its impossible to please God without faith, Hebrews 11:6.  James, the earthly brother of Jesus states that faith is dead without accompanied by action, James 2:26.  Perhaps, the reason why individuals are forced to step out in faith is that many people spend most of their lives dwelling within personal comfort zones.  Thus, God has to nudge and prod people to live by faith, not by sight.

For we live by faith, not by sight, 2 Corinthians 5:7.

Prior to the fall of Jericho, Joshua led his army to march around the walls of the city for six consecutive days.  At some point during this week, there must have been murmurs by soldiers, “when am I going to get my weapon?”  Although its not mentioned in the Bible, human nature causes individuals to doubt.  While not vocalized, Joshua needed to unite the troops on the final day, with something like “stop talking and march.”  Though you and I will have many more “are you sure about that” moments, may you fight through the urge to doubt by trusting God, step by step in faith.

by Jay Mankus

Envy

When an American talks about the first family, they are usually referring the president and their family.  However, the Bible also has a first family.  Adam and Eve gave birth to Cain and Abel.  Everything was perfect until Adam and Eve broke God’s only rule.  Following their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, a curse was unleashed.  Subsequently, the human flesh was inflected with envy.

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it,” Genesis 4:7.

When life as a farmer hit a snag, Cain struggled to provide for his family.  This lack of production influenced Cain to cut back on his first fruit offering.  In the meantime, his kid brother Abel decided to become a shepherd.  Based upon the early portion of chapter 4, Abel gave the first portion of his profits to the Lord.  This offering pleased God, but conceived envy within the heart of Cain.  This is the beginning of how envy rots the bones.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones, Proverbs 14:30.

Envy is like a double edged sword.  On one side envy is self-seeking, wishing you possessed what others have.  All the while, this same sinful nature is causing individuals to disconnect from God.  Unless this desire is cut off, envy will continue to cut to heart, poison souls and rot human bones.  For those of you caught up by this spiritual disease, start by implementing the words of Colossians 3:4-7.  From here, confess, pray and enter into accountability relationships to rid yourself of any ill-effects of this addictive nature.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Faith Without Hesitation

When I was young, I got caught in a severe thunderstorm.  However, it wasn’t the lightning I was worried about.  I found myself on the other side of a raging creek, with the water level rising with each second that I waited to jump.  I stood three feet away from safety, yet there wasn’t room for a running start, stuck between two boulders.  My mind said you won’t make it, but fear of the impending weather caused me to jump.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him, Hebrews 11:6.

Not much has changed since I made this leap of faith.  However, the older you get, the obstacles increase in difficulty.  Unfortunately, the longer you postpone or wait to face trials, the harder they become.  Creek beds turn into rivers and rivers into lakes.  Hesitation may seem normal, but leads to doubt.  Genuine faith leaves second guessing behind, resulting in a solid spiritual foundation.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 6:23.

Evangelists often use what is known as the road to Romans to illustrate faith.  Using the passage above, designers of this analogy refer to sin as the Grand Canyon separating human beings from God.  Even if you were a world long jump champion, you can’t physically make it to the other side.  The solution to this problem is the cross of Jesus.  Although invisible, Christians walk by faith to get to the other side.  In view of this, don’t procrastinate any longer.  Rather, display a faith without hesitation.

by Jay Mankus

 

When Obeying God Trumps Man

From an early age, the concept of obedience is reinforced within many childhood games.  Simon Says, Mother May I and Red Light, Green Light rewards and penalizes players for either obeying or disobeying.  Perhaps, the creators of these activities understood obeying God trumps man.

“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” – Acts 5:28

Following the legalization of abortion in 1973 after the Roe vs. Wade ruling, the Senate passed the Church Amendment which eventually led states to enact conscience clauses.   While the wording may be different, these laws prevent individuals from performing procedures that go against their religious beliefs.  Unfortunately, as political correctness replaces the Bible as the moral gold standard, many are faced with the dilemma, “do I please man or God?”

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! – Acts 5:29

The disciples of Jesus found themselves in a similar situation around AD 30.  Jewish leaders and Roman officials attempted to quench their freedom of speech.  Thus, after authorities encouraged Peter to stop telling others about Jesus, he faced a crisis of faith.  Prior to the Holy Spirit, Peter would have likely retreated, blending into society like a chameleon.  However, after Pentecost Peter was a different man, unable to remain silent anymore.  Thus, this is one of those occasions in life when obeying God trumps man.

by Jay Mankus

 

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