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How to Overcome a Common Flaw

The origin of the phrase ‘Ignorance is bliss’ can be traced back to an English poet. Thomas Gray’s Ode was composed in 1742, reminiscing about his schooldays at Eton College. While knowledge is power, students who graduate from college often develop a superiority complex. When adults who think they know everything re-enter society as so called experts, there is a danger that these individuals will forget the common flaw that all human beings share.

Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives, Romans 3:23.

The apostle Paul addresses this flaw in a letter to the church at Rome. Back in Romans 3:10, Paul quotes the Old Testament. This passage clearly states that there is no one righteous, not even one in a trillion. This flaw prevents the driven, disciplined and focused from honoring and glorifying God daily. This sinful nature is within our DNA. Subsequently, as embryos are conceived, no one can escape this imperfection.

[All] are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favor and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus, 25 Whom God put forward [before the eyes of all] as a mercy seat and propitiation by His blood [the cleansing and life-giving sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation, to be received] through faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over and ignored former sins without punishment, Romans 3:24-25.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul explains how faith can help overcome this flaw. While God’s grace is unmerited, redemption is possible by placing your faith in Jesus Christ. This acknowledgement is based upon the fact that Jesus was the perfect lamb, free from sin, who was crucified on a cross, died, buried and rose from the dead. Just as God passed over the homes of Jews during the first Passover in Egypt who marked their doors with blood, God will forgive sinners who trust in Jesus. Romans 10:9-11 provides a prayer to help anyone overcome their sinful nature.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Help or Satan’s Hurt

During a trip to Gibeon, King Solomon experienced a special dream one night. According to 1 Kings 3, the Lord appeared to Solomon in this dream, asking him to make a decision between wealth or wisdom. After thoroughly examining his options, Solomon requested a discerning heart and understanding mind. This decision pleased the Lord resulting in a life of blessings, riches and wealth like no other ruler in the Bible.

Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of David my father, and I am but a lad [in wisdom and experience]; I know not how to go out (begin) or come in (finish). Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people who cannot be counted for multitude. So give Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge and rule this Your great people? – 1 King 3:7-9

In the first century, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a teenage pastor named Timothy. Apparently, Timothy was uncertain and unsure of what position to take on wealth. The passage above provides biblical insight and perspective. While blessings are a sign of God’s favor, Satan uses riches as a vessel for temptation. Thus, when money becomes your god, God’s initial help can quickly turn into Satan’s hurts.

But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction and miserable perishing. 10 For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many acute [mental] pangs, 1 Timothy 6:9-10.

You don’t have to look any further than the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 to understand this concept. A younger son became consumed by his share of an inheritance. Before receiving this money, his mind became filled with earthly pleasures. Like an addict who can’t control himself, the prodigal son quickly became Exhibit A for Satan’s hurt. Broke, desperate and homeless, the only way to overcome Satan’s hurt is coming to your senses. May this story of redemption inspire you to embrace God’s help so Satan’s hurt becomes a thing of the past.

by Jay Mankus

The 4 Dreams of Christmas

Dream #1

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by [the power of] the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her [promised] husband, being a just and righteous man and not wanting to expose her publicly to shame, planned to send her away and divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus (The Lord is salvation), for He will save His people from their sins,” Matthew 1:18-21.

You have probably heard of the 12 days of Christmas, a catechism song published in the 1780’s by oppressed Catholics.  Yet, 4 dreams that made Christmas possible, the mass of Christ, are often overlooked.  The first dream prevented Jesus from growing up in a single parent household, void of an earthly father.  While dreams are a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep, the Lord sent an angel from heaven like a scene from a Christmas movie, to fulfill God’s plan for redemption on earth.

Dream #2

Now when they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod intends to search for the Child in order to destroy Him.” 14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet [Hosea]: “Out of Egypt I called My Son,” Matthew 2:13-15.

Whenever you have any dream, there are rationale explanations.  This could be due to simply day dreaming, mental aspirations, nightmares or stress.  However, from a spiritual perspective, there are times when God uses dreams as a form of divine intervention.  The second dream of Christmas provoked an immediate response by awakening the soul of Joseph.  Just as Old Testament families plotted the deaths of brothers who stood in their way of the throne, Herod attempted to slaughter the king of the Jews.  However, babies are hard to identify from one another at an early age.  Thus, King Herod devised a plan to kill all babies under the age of 2.  This dream enabled Mary, Joseph and Jesus to escape this massacre in a nick of time.

Dream #3

But when Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20 “Get up! Take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then Joseph got up, and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel, Matthew 2:19-21.

Most people use an alarm clock to get up each morning.  Others use their cell phone to make sure they are not late for work.  However, this third dream introduces the concept of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.  After being on the run, living in a foreign land, another angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream.  It’s unclear if God sent the same angel each time, but this dream served as a spiritual alarm clock to get up and go.  This dream set the stage for the future king of the Jews to return home to Israel.  Although this is only an assumption, after news of Herod’s slaughter of countless baby boys reached Egypt, Joseph likely developed a keen awareness of his dreams.  Thus, each night as Joseph went to sleep, he was eager, hopeful and waiting for another encounter with God.

Dream #4

But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod [the Great], he was afraid to go there. Then being warned by God in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee, 23 and went and settled in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene,” Matthew 1:22-23.

The final dream of Christmas varies from the first three.  The Lord didn’t need to send an angel to get Joseph’s attention.  Rather, by this time in his life, Joseph was in tune with God, like a faithful servant eagerly awaiting his next command.  These dreams radically transformed the life of Jesus’ earthly father.  Instead of doubting, questioning or becoming a skeptic, Joseph had become a believer in God’s plan.  Mary and Joseph may not have understood the impact their son would make on earth, yet they began to walk by faith, not by sight.  As Christmas carols take over the airwaves this December, don’t forget to remind people of how God used dreams to protect and ensure this sacred holiday.  May these dreams open your mind to the possibility of God speaking to you and me in a similar manner today.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Going Back to Your Former Way of Life

Following Jesus’ death and Judas’ suicide, half of the disciples began to contemplate what to do with the rest of their lives.  Apparently, Peter already made up his mind, deciding to go back to his former trade as a fishermen.  Based upon the passage below, it didn’t take much to convince several others, spending a night on the Sea of Galilee.  This short passage highlights what happens when people lose faith.  In many cases, the spiritually lost return to their old ways, to their former life before Christ.

Simon Peter, and Thomas who is called Didymus (the twin), and Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, as well as [John and James] the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said, “And we are coming with you.” So they went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing, John 21:2-3.

After a failed night at sea, these six men were dejected, striking out every where they went.  Desperate for redemption, these disciples take advice from a man standing on the shore.  As soon as their nets caught a large school of fish, John put two and two together, recognizing the man on shore as Jesus in resurrected form.  In the greatest fishing story within the Bible, the disciples hauled in 153 fish.  Like grilling on your own deck, Jesus set up a charcoal fire, starting to cook these fish as they were brought to shore.

So when they got out on the beach, they saw a charcoal fire set up and fish on it cooking, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three [of them]; and although there were so many, the net was not torn, John 21:9-11.

The term charcoal fire appears only twice in the Bible.  The first mention occurs just before Peter denies Jesus a third time, warming his hands over a charcoal fire during a cold night.  Perhaps, Jesus choses this form of fire to remind Peter of his past transgression.  During a private meeting in John 21:15-17, Jesus asks Peter if he loves the him three times, reminiscent of Peter’s public denial.  Between the smell of the charcoal fire and these three questions, Jesus is sending a message to Peter. “Why did you revert to your former way of life?  Look at me; I’ve risen from the dead.  Are you ready to get back into the game; eager to feed my sheep, the church?”  The next time you find yourself reverting back to your former way of life, remember this chapter of the Bible so that you remain connected to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

A Layer of Protection

God designed human beings with a layer of protection known as skin.  Internally, the rib cage serves as a chest protector to protect life’s most vital organ.  Meanwhile, the skull surrounds the brain,  the think tank of the body.  Yet, there is an invisible layer of protection that few people talk about.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it, Proverbs 4:23.

While dreaming the other night, I began to think about all the things in life I want to accomplish but never have to date.  The longer my list became, the worse I felt, resulting in an overwhelming sense of remorse.  Before a state of depression filled my soul, God intervened with a layer of protection.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him, John 3:17.

One of the misconceptions individuals make about God is that He wants to punish people.  However, one of Jesus’ disciples reveals the truth about His visit to earth, to save mankind.  To prevent sinners from future nervous breakdowns, angels, divine intervention and supernatural forces are unleashed to serve as a layer of protection.  While powers of darkness may claim some victims, the Lord continues to offer a message of redemption.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Fruit of Lips

 

Unless you live in the Bible belt, portions of the south or in a friendly neighbor, an encouraging word is a rare sound.  Rather, misery loves company, spreading negativity into the air, leaving a trail of carnage in its wake.  In this current environment, the fruit of lips is disappearing.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name, Hebrews 13:15.

To combat harsh comments during the first century, the author of Hebrews suggests praising God can turn a foul mouth into the fruit of lips.  However, you still have to overcome any influences which alter your choice of words.  The term continually is added to insure this practice is consistent, not something here today and gone tomorrow.  Change takes time and making praise a habits will lead to a transformed vocabulary.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption, Ephesians 4:29-30.

The apostle Paul discovered that unwholesome talk grieves the Holy Spirit.  If the church is one body composed of many parts, any comment toward someone you don’t like or related to is like slapping God is the face, the Creator of life.  Therefore, to avoid failing into this trap, replace curses with praise.  Then, you will emulate the fruit of lips.

by Jay Mankus

Blood that Speaks a Better Word

To have blood on your hands often refers to being guilty.  Blood is symbolic of life, necessary to keep a human being alive.  However, sometimes an accident, mistake or minor transgression can end the life of an animal, human being or possession.

For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things, Isaiah 59:3.

Another saying refers to being guilty as sin.  In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah found the nation of Israel in denial.  Instead of coming clean by repenting, justification took over.   When caught red handed, most become defensive regardless of how guilty one may be.

To Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel, Hebrews 12:24.

The author of Hebrews uses a unique connotation of blood.  Abel was innocent and pure when jealousy caused his older brother to take his life.  Yet, Jesus, who brought a new covenant introduces this concept.  Instead of going to a great high priest to atone for your sins, Jesus died once and for all sins.  Therefore. his blood speaks a better word, one of forgiveness, redemption and a promise of a new life without guilt or shame.

by Jay Mankus

The Original Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption film was inspired by the Stephen King 1982 novel collection Different Seasons.  In the 1994 movie, Tim Robbins plays a banker, Andy Dufresne, falsely accused of killing his wife and a golf professional during an affair which took place at his own home.  The jury had enough motive to convict and sentence Dufresne to two life terms in prision at Shawshank State Penitentiary.  When a new inmate reveals a confessional of this crime from a former cell mate, the warden denies Andy’s request for a re-trial as well as killing the prisoner who could prove Dufresne’s innocence.

When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread, Acts 12:3.

During the first century, a fisherman turned evangelist experiences a similar ordeal.  When the Jesus movement threaten to weaken Judaism, one of its leaders was arrested by King Herod.  Although his life was spared unlike his friend James of Zebedee, Peter is held by armed guards awaiting his trial after the Passover celebration.  To insure he would not escape, Peter was bound with chains on each arm.  Neither predicament seemed plausible until redemption entered the equation.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists, Acts 12:7.

Andy Dufresne used a rock hammer, a poster of Rita Hayworth and time to escape through the tunnel used as the prison’s sewage pipe.  Switching the accounting book in the vault, Andy sent a letter to a local newspaper exposing the corruption at Shawshank on his first day as a free man.  Meanwhile, an angel wakes up Peter, releases his chains and leads him out of prison without anyone noticing his escape.  Following years of injustice, the warden commits suicide instead of facing law enforcement and Herod dies after failing to praise the Lord.  Although each story has its own twists and turns, the accounts by Luke of Peter in Acts 12 can be described as the original Shawshank Redemption.

by Jay Mankus

Beyond Redemption

Wherever you go in life, you will find signs.  Some contain mistakes, others confusing messages and a few will make you laugh.  Yet, there is one that is profound, Beyond Redemption.

God sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name! – Psalm 111:9

If you have ever visited Niagara Falls, this sign serves as a final warning.  At the point of no return, where help can not arrive soon enough, the sign Beyond Redemption has been placed.  Just as the Niagara River plummets 325 feet before it flows north to Lake Ontario, this sign assumes death is inevitable.

In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. – Colossians 1:14

Today, individuals consume, drink and eat things which will harm their bodies.  Subsequently, nearly every package contains a warning label, usually describing a worst case scenario, especially if you suffer from this or that.  In view of the frailty in this life, please consider the redemption offered by life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ before you reach a point of no return.

by Jay Mankus

 

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