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Tag Archives: read the Bible

The Day Christians Didn’t Want Church to End

From the age of 6 to 16, my parents started to vacation in the state of Maine.  After renting a small cottage on Thompson Lake for a few years, a retired couple invited my family to stay in their A-Frame and Lodge.  Subsequently, Maine became like a second home, spending several weeks there each August.  While my birthday parties were small, I went fishing, golfing or running every day.  Eventually, my parents found a church in Oxford, about a fifteen minute drive.  To my pleasant surprise, this church ran like a clock, ending in 39 minutes every Sunday.  As a teenager eager to fish or play golf, this priest kept my attention, always short and sweet.

When the congregation of the synagogue had been dismissed, many of the Jews and the devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, talking to them were urging them to continue in the grace of God, Acts 13:43.

During one of their missionary journeys, Paul and Barnabas experienced the exact opposite reaction.  While preaching to a crowded synagogue in the region of Antioch in Pisidia, the audience in attendance did not work this service to end.  After being dismissed, several Jews and converts to Judaism begged Paul and Barnabas to keep teaching.  These souls were spiritually hungry, eager to learn more about the grace of God.  This desire reminds me of a portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus reveals two key priorities.

But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also, Matthew 6:33.

Spiritual hunger isn’t natural, but when individuals take time to pray, read the Bible or worship God, the Holy Spirit alters human priorities toward spiritual desires.  Although I can’t recall ever wanting a church service to keep going, there are other moments in time that I didn’t want to end.  Spiritual retreats, certain vacations and my Tentmaker Leadership Training were so life altering that I wanted to stay.  Anytime you have to go back to reality is hard, especially if you are not happy with where you are in life.  Nonetheless, when you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you may find yourself like the service in Acts 13:43, not wanting church to end.

by Jay Mankus

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The Jesus Check List

For the past 25 years, Thanksgiving serves as a dual purpose for my family.  The first is obvious, to reconnect, reflect and share how the past year has gone, either good, bad or indifferent.  The second is a precursor to Christmas, exchanging gift wish lists.  Thanks to Amazon, most of this is done online to avoiding writing down the same list several times on a piece of paper.  Nonetheless, as Christmas Day approaches, there is an internal list with decorations, gift wrapping and preparations that need to completed before you can actually enjoy Jesus’ birthday.

For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations],” Romans 10:10-11.

A 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman introduced another kind of list.  The Bucket List involves two men who have been each diagnosed with terminal cancer.  After meeting in the hospital for the first time, the billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole played by Nicholson finances a series of trips before each man dies.  In a race against the clock, these men invest their energy doing the things in life they always wanted to do, but never took the time.  Since the initial release of the Bucket List, several # movements have transformed others on the verge of death to pursue their own check list of dreams and goals to accomplish.

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. 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 12:1-2.

My favorite list is one that gets little attention, but results in eternal rewards, the Jesus Check List.  Instead of going through life focusing on the things you want to experience, the Jesus Check List is based upon fulfilling God’s will for your life.  Before you can start this list, you need to join Jesus’ team as described by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:10-11.  The moment you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you gain access to the Holy Spirit.  C.S. Lewis refers to this as theological virtues in Mere Christianity, enabling new converts to obtain charity, faith and hope as you progress down Jesus’ Check List.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God [which represents all that Jesus Christ is and does], so that you will know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have eternal life. 14 This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us, 1 John 5:13-14.

As individuals begin to daily prayer, read the Bible and begin to worship God throughout the week, not just on Sunday’s, lives can be radically changed if you stick with the Jesus Check List.  The apostle Paul refers to this as a process, offering up your life each day as a living sacrifice to God.  This involves asking God a series of questions in the form of a prayer.  What do you want me to do today?  Where do you need me to go to help others?  Who needs to be encouraged, give me eyes to see?  How can I reach the lost; using the God given talents you have blessed me with?  If you take this blog to heart, you will be well on your way, certain of the eternal rewards awaiting you in heaven with each day you commit to serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

For Who; For What?

During a 1995 NFL game, former running back Ricky Watters purposively dropped a pass thrown to him.  Playing for the Philadelphia Eagles at the time, Watters was a safety valve on this play.  If his quarterback felt pressure from the defense, the play design led Watters to the middle of the field, beyond the pass rush.  However, as the play was enfolding, Watters saw that a defensive player primed to hit him hard.  To avoid this massive collusion, Watters simply dropped the ball.  Following the game, reporters gathered around Watters locker, wanting the know the reason for this incomplete pass.  Frustrated by this unwanted attention, Ricky Watters responded, “For who; for what?”

One of the lawyers [an expert in the Mosaic Law] answered Him, “Teacher, by saying this, You insult us too!” 46 But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well, because you weigh men down with burdens [man-made rules, unreasonable requirements] which are hard to bear, and you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers [to lighten the load], Luke 11:45-46.

Looking back on this event from 20 years ago, at least Ricky was honest.  If Watters caught this pass, the play would have gained minimal yardage.  Thus, Watters felt like it was unnecessary to sell himself out on this play.  Getting injured on a play that didn’t amount to much didn’t make sense to a professional athlete trying to protect his body and his career.  While “for who; for what” is a selfish statement, do you blame him for confessing what was truly on his heart?  This comment is no different from first century Pharisees, self-righteous religious leaders who served as the media of their day, regularly pointing out the mistakes of others.  To make matters worse, these Jewish leaders added man made rules to God’s laws.  Corrupted by power given to them by their followers, Pharisees were like modern day politicians who set laws for their country, yet were exempt from that which they expect others to obey.

Woe to you lawyers, because you have taken away the key to knowledge (scriptural truth). You yourselves did not enter, and you held back those who were entering [by your flawed interpretation of God’s word and your man-made tradition],” Luke 11:52.

As people read the Bible for the first time, they might not say “for who; for what?”  Yet, people will silently think, “what’s the point?”  Others will ponder, “why should I believe in something written almost two thousand years ago?”  This skepticism is natural in a world always challenging and questioning authority.  Immediately following Peter’s public confession that Jesus is the promised Messiah, Jesus reveals an oxymoron about life.  “If you want to save your life, you will lose it.  However, if you are willing to give up your life, you will save it.”  This head scratching statement from Mark 8:35-37 unveils the purpose for life on earth.  The who is the creator of the heavens and the earth.  The what is dedicating your life by making an eternal difference with the life that God has given you.  When you surrender your aspirations by committing to serving Jesus Christ as Lord, the Holy Spirit enables you to see the big picture, eternity in heaven.  This choice is not forced, but my prayer is that souls are rejuvenated by the message of this blog.

by Jay Mankus

Wake Me Up

In the summer of 2009, Staples created a witty back to school shopping advertisement.  This commercial compared children going back to school to the most wonderful time of year for adults.  Using a Christmas carol, parents are jubilantly placing school supplies into a shopping cart while both kids are dazed and depressed.  From time to time, everyone needs comic relief to bring laughter and joy into your life.

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins,” Isaiah 43:25.

When it comes to the spiritual realm, you need more than a funny show to snap you out of a spiritual funk.  This unhealthy state usually begins with distractions from the world, preoccupation with other priorities and simply forgetting to invite God into your daily life.  Those that continue down this road, allowing busyness to take over will begin to experience the early stages of spiritual amnesia.  Symptoms include memory loss in terms of biblical application, failing to pray, a tendency to forget to read the Bible and lost desire to attend church weekly.

“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more,” Hebrews 8:12.

The only known cure to spiritual amnesia is confession.  According to the Old and New Testament of the Bible, God pours out his grace, mercy and forgiveness to those who acknowledge their shortcomings.  Unfortunately, the hardest part of spiritual amnesia is breaking free from its numbing powers.  In my younger years, I went off to a retreat to revive my soul.  Yet, as an adult with a busy schedule, you have to search harder than ever to find opportunities to regain spiritual momentum.  Although recovery does not happen overnight, if you seek God like the persistent widow, Luke 18:1-8, your faith will be restored.

by Jay Mankus

 

Teetotalism in Religion

As dictionaries are updated annually, important words from history are fading from the forefront.  Instead, slang, tech terms and pop culture is redefining societies vocabulary.  One of these obsolete words is teetotalism, a stringent form of following the rules.  Islam or Muslims  is one of the few faiths which practice teetotalism in adherence to the 5 pillars.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11:28.

In his classic book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis addresses teetotalism in a chapter called The Cardinal Virtues, values that anyone can possess.  Lewis suggests that initially, teetotalism was a form of temperance, going the right distance and no further.  Like anything in life, context, time and understanding alter the meaning of words.  Thus, teetotalism in the context of religion is merely knowing the boundaries between the right and wrong and failing to cross over this line.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, Matthew 11:29.

However, when faith is limited to an adherence to rules, meaning can be lost like Pharisees who strayed from God’s commands.  Rather, Jesus doesn’t care what you wear to church on Sunday; only that you come as you are, ditching the facade the fake put on.  Once souls reach the understanding that you can’t do it on your own, Romans 6:23, spiritual hunger is conceived.  Free will enables hearts to wait until they are ready.  When this day arrives, believers won’t have to rely on teetotalism anymore.  Instead, a desire for biblical truth will prompt individuals to pray, read the Bible and worship the Lord 7 days a week.

by Jay Mankus

 

An Accomplice to Sin

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them, James 4:17.

Who me?  I didn’t do anything wrong.  No really officer, “I was just following trying to keep pace with traffic.”  Whenever individuals resort to justifying their actions, they are usually an accomplice to sin.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, Genesis 3:6.

Although Eve is the main character during the fall known as original sin, she did have a partner in crime.  Hidden from plain view, Adam overheard the serpent tempting his wife without intervening.  Perhaps he was watching Sports Center, checking out his fantasy team or merely pretending to listen to Eve.  Either way, Adam was an accomplice to the first sin on earth.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned, Romans 5:12.

According to the apostle Paul, Adam is the main culprit on earth’s first scandal.  Since God clearly spelled out the boundaries to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17, it was his responsibility to pass this information on to his wife as uphold this rule.  Today, anyone who has read the Bible, heard the gospel or is introduced to biblical truths can’t claim ignorance.  As one of Jesus’ disciples once wrote, if you know what to do or not to do and don’t heed the Lord’s principles then you too are an accomplice to sin.

by Jay Mankus

 

You Don’t Smell As Good As You Think

In his prime, comedian Bill Cosby had a stand up act about the transformation infants go through.  Cosby was a genius, not needing to use cursing or rely on vulgarity to make people laugh.  Instead, Bill spoke about how babies’ poo does not smell initially.  However, any parent who has had to change a dirty diaper understands the stench and mess that comes out of the body of someone so little.  Thereby proclaiming, “you don’t smell as good as you think that you do!”

Last spring, I suffered from a severe sinus infection that my body could not Fight off.  No matter what I did to battle this ailment, over the counter drugs could not relieve the constant pressure in my head.  One of the side effects of this cold was extreme sweating and an unusual body odor, foreign from my typical workout smell.  I changed my deodorant and shampoo to improve my aroma, without much success.  Fortunately, by the end of June, God healed me from this daily hindrance.  Through it all, I learned a difficult life lesson, “I didn’t smell as good as I thought.”

Today, arrogance, pride and self-conceit serves as a false sense of security.  These defense mechanisms blind individuals from reality.  No cologne, deodorant or perfume can mask anyone from the sinful nature inside them, Romans 3:23.  The only way to overcome this spiritual condition is by bathing in the presence of God, Psalm 23:6.  Whether you read the Bible, Romans 10:17, worship the Lord in song, Psalm 150 or withdraw to pray, Mark 1:35, spending time doing with God will lead you in the right direction away from the stench of sin.  May you come to acknowledge what the apostle did in the first century, “you don’t smell as good as you think,” 1 Timothy 1:15.

by Jay Mankus

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