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The Author and the Giver of Peace

One Old Testament prophet gave the future Messiah a nickname. According to Isaiah 9:6, Jesus will become the Prince of Peace. The author of Hebrews takes this concept one step further claiming that Jesus is also the author of peace. All of you have do is recall the words of Jesus while hanging on a cross for a crime he didn’t commit. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, Luke 23:34.”

Now may the God of peace [Who is the Author and the Giver of peace], Who brought again from among the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood [that sealed, ratified] the everlasting agreement (covenant, testament), Hebrews 13:20.

The author of Hebrews refers to Jesus as a Great High Priest. The reason for this title serves as symbolism as a perfect lamb sacrificed for the sins of mankind. One of Jesus’ own disciples refers to a new Christian as part of a royal priesthood thanks to the shedding of Jesus’ blood and resurrection 3 days later, 1 Peter 2:9. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul points to Jesus’ willingness to lay down his life for sinners, Romans 5:8.

Strengthen (complete, perfect) and make you what you ought to be and equip you with everything good that you may carry out His will; [while He Himself] works in you and accomplishes that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ (the Messiah); to Whom be the glory forever and ever (to the ages of the ages). Amen (so be it), Hebrews 13:21.

This is the spiritual pedigree that elevates Jesus up as the author and giver of peace. The only question is why aren’t followers of Jesus today displaying and offering peace to others? Have we forgotten our calling to love our neighbors as ourselves? Or have the worries of this world bruised and battered our souls? Wherever are you in life, may this blog inspire you to pass on the peace of Christ in 2022.

by Jay Mankus

Offer Up a Sacrifice of Praise in 2022

The apostle Paul builds upon what he learned from Jewish religious leaders in Romans 12:1-2. Rather than offer up a living animal up to God to atone for sin, Paul urges followers of Jesus to offer up their bodies as a living sacrifice. This post resurrection calling is a way to please God. Yet, this spiritual exercise yields insight such as what God’s will is for your life.

Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name, Hebrews 13:15.

Until you receive clarity about your purpose and future callings, the author of Hebrews provides similar advice in the passage above. Marie Barnett experienced this while writing the words to the song This is the Air We Breathe. Barnett recalls how these words spontaneously came out during a Sunday evening service at the Mission Viejo Vineyard in Southern California.

I am as a wonder and surprise to many, but You are my strong refuge. My mouth shall be filled with Your praise and with Your honor all the day. Cast me not off nor send me away in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent and my powers fail, Psalm 71:7-9.

The book of Psalms is filled with commands to praise the Lord. One Psalmist declares that human beings were designed to praise God. Perhaps, this is the key to discovering God’s will for your life in 2022. The more you pour out your soul with praise to the Great I Am, mysteries about your future will be unveiled like Marie Barnett’s testimony. Therefore, offer up a sacrifice of praise in 2022 as you’ll never know where worship will lead you until you weekly celebrate the only living God.

by Jay Mankus

Silently Setting the Scene for Christmas

Franz Xaver Gruber composed Silent Night in 1818 using Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria as a back drop. When combined with Joseph Mohr’s lyrics, Silent Night was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. In the past 200 years, this Christmas classic song has silently set the scene, preparing hearts and minds to worship Jesus, the Savior of the World.

In the beginning [before all time] was the Word ([a]Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [b]Himself. He was present originally with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being John 1:1-3.

Yet, in the first century one of Jesus’ disciples introduces the concept of a Trinity. One God with three distinct personalities. If you use the Bible as a source for history, these qualities are displayed throughout 3 different eras. God the Father is the mastermind who laid out a back up plan in Genesis 3:15. Meanwhile, God the Son came to earth and seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10.

In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it], John 1:4-5.

Following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, we now live in the age of the Holy Spirit. This invisible ghost serves as a counselor and guide throughout the days of our lives. According to one of the members of Jesus’ inner circle, God’s Spirit gives us everything we need for life, 2 Peter 1:3-4. Therefore, as another Christmas Day approaches, silently set your heart, soul and mind to be ready to worship Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

A Fresh and New Way to Live

No matter how hard I try every year, at some point my life becomes stale. There are various reasons for this condition such as low energy, frustration due to a lack of progress and a lack of vision for the future. While my intentions are to seize each day that the Lord gives me, hope and optimism seem to fade quickly when things don’t go my way. Subsequently, I need to change this unhealthy pattern.

Therefore, brethren, since we have full freedom and confidence to enter into the [Holy of] Holies [by the power and virtue] in the blood of Jesus, 20 By this fresh (new) and living way which He initiated and dedicated and opened for us through the separating curtain (veil of the Holy of Holies), that is, through His flesh, Hebrews 10:19-20.

The author of Hebrews provides a plan for a fresh and new way to live. This begins by reflecting upon what Jesus did for the Jewish faith. Instead of being separated from God due to sinful tendencies, Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection 3 days later opened the door for sinners. Thus, you no longer need to travel to a temple so that a priest can offer a sacrifice for your sins. Rather, God’s grace has provided new access which was once limited to only high priests.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

An entire chapter of famous Jewish leaders illustrates what made these individuals different, Hebrews 11. On each occasion faith was the difference, trusting in an invisible God. The blood of Jesus has transformed the way New Testament Christians live, 1 Peter 3:18. Furthermore, once you make a public profession of faith, Romans 10:9-11, you have access to the power of the Holy Spirit which provides everything you need for life, 2 Peter 1:3-4. This is the fresh and new way to live, available to all who believe.

by Jay Mankus

The Sole Expression of Glory

The word glory is found 619 times in the Bible. In the Old Testament, glory appears 148 times, but has two entirely unrelated meanings and, thus, describes two completely different ideas. When you dig deeper, glory is derived from twenty different words: twelve in Hebrew and eight in the Greek. Translations from terms like kâbôd, pâ’ar, tiph’ârâh, hâdâr and addereth are specific aspects of glory.

In many separate revelations [[a]each of which set forth a portion of the Truth] and in different ways God spoke of old to [our] forefathers in and by the prophets, [But] in [b]the last of these days He has spoken to us in [the person of a] Son, Whom He appointed Heir and lawful Owner of all things, also by and through Whom He created the worlds and the reaches of space and the ages of time [He made, produced, built, operated, and arranged them in order], Hebrews 1:1-2.

While the basic definition of glory is high renown or honor won by notable achievements, biblical glory is a combination of awe, praise, worship, and thanksgiving. The author of Hebrews begins this book with a summary of past revelations. While reflecting upon why the earth was created, a conclusion is reached by verse 2. Jesus is the sole expression of the glory of God, the reflection of our divine heavenly father.

He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the [c]out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power. When He had by offering Himself accomplished our cleansing of sins and riddance of guilt, He sat down at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high, Hebrews 1:3.

The first mention of Jesus occurs in Genesis 3:15. Following the punishment handed out to Eve and the Serpent, aka the Devil, the first prophecy of Jesus is subtle. This cryptic message lays out God’s plan to send a second Adam to earth to seek and to save that which was lost in the Garden of Eden, Luke 19:10. Once carried out by a virgin, Jesus lived 33 years on earth before becoming obedient to death on a cross. Three days after being pronounced dead, the sole expression of glory was realized in Jesus’ resurrection.

by Jay Mankus

A Simple Confession Can Change the World

The word confession is found six times in the Kings James Version of the Bible. Confession is the act of acceptance, taking responsibility for a wrong act, behavior or deed. This public acknowledgement owns up to something that you’re embarrassed to admit. Fueled by conviction and guilt, a simple confession by a young man inside a church in Great Britain sparked the first Great Awakening.

Beloved, do not put faith in every spirit, but prove (test) the spirits to discover whether they proceed from God; for many false prophets have gone forth into the world. By this you may know (perceive and recognize) the Spirit of God: every spirit which acknowledges and confesses [the fact] that Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [actually] has become man and has come in the flesh is of God [has God for its source]; 1 John 4:1-2.

According to one of Jesus’ disciples, genuine confession is a direct sign of God’s presence working inside a human heart. As a member of Jesus’ inner circle, John witnessed love in action for three straight years. When most of his follower’s abandoned him on the first Good Friday, Jesus replied, “forgive them for they know not what they do,” Luke 23:34. These remarks followed by Jesus’ resurrection changed the world forever.

And the prayer [that is] of faith will save him who is sick, and the Lord will restore him; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working], James 5:15-16.

In the passage above, one of Jesus’ earthly brother’s chimes in as well. According to first century historians, James did not believe his own brother was the Messiah until Jesus rose from the death. Haunted by his own unbelief, James pours out his heart about the importance of confession. Two thousands years later, the earth has gone through a series of changes. Yet, one thing endures: a simple confession can still change the world.

by Jay Mankus

Out of the Control and Dominion of Darkness

Depending upon the translation of the Bible that you use, there are 47 verses that directly mention darkness. Two of these passages were written by the apostle Paul. Rather than contrast darkness with light, Paul refers to dominions of darkness. In the passage below, Paul refers to physical territories and spiritual dimensions. Some of these places are ruled by world leaders with master spirits working behind the scenes.

Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. 13 Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place], Ephesians 6:11-13.

In the middle of the passage above, Paul makes an interesting correlation. Instead of fighting a physical opponent on earth, look beyond human beings to the forces at work influencing people. Every now and then I will encounter an individual who is having a bad day. Some people are like a ticking bomb ready to explode if you do or say the wrong thing. If your timing is bad, you may be the trigger that puts someone over the edge.

[The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, Colossians 1:13.

Despite this unsettling news, Paul explains how Jesus has drawn Christian’s out of the control of and the dominion of darkness. In the second chapter of Paul’s letter to Colosse, Paul reveals how Jesus disarmed the principalities and powers of darkness, Colossians 2:13-15. Meanwhile, 1 Corinthians 15:53-56 details how Jesus removed the sting of death by rising from the dead. This is the hope that Christians have by trusting in Jesus, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Believe the Fake News

Sensationalism is a tool that the print media has used to attract attention, gain recognition or serve as a distraction to steer the headlines in a different direction. By the early 19th century, American newspapers relied on scoops and exposés to increase circulation. The origin of fake news likely began in The New York Sun’s “Great Moon Hoax” of 1835. This breaking news story claimed that there was an alien civilization on the moon, establishing the Sun as a leading and profitable newspaper. Perhaps, this explains why the apostle Paul warned the church at Thessalonica to test everything that they hear, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22.

While they were on their way, behold, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had occurred. 12 And when they [the chief priests] had gathered with the elders and had consulted together, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers, 13 And said, Tell people, His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we were sleeping. 14 And if the governor hears of it, we will appease him and make you safe and free from trouble and care. 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this story has been current among the Jews to the present day, Matthew 28:11-15.

In the middle of the first century AD, Paul was disturbed by another fake news story spread by religious and Roman leaders. This rumor inspired an entire chapter written to the church at Corinth. After soldiers were offered a bribe, Roman officials claimed that there was no resurrection of Jesus. Rather, the disciples came in the middle of the night to steal his body. Yet, Paul cuts through this lie by addressing the eye witnesses, more than 500 individuals who saw Jesus following his death on a cross. In the passage below, Paul reminds his audience that many of these people were still alive.

For I passed on to you first of all what I also had received, that Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for our sins in accordance with [what] the Scriptures [foretold], That He was buried, that He arose on the third day as the Scriptures foretold, And [also] that He appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the Twelve. Then later He showed Himself to more than five hundred brethren at one time, the majority of whom are still alive, but some have fallen asleep [in death]. Afterward He was seen by James, then by all the apostles (the special messengers), And last of all He appeared to me also, as to one prematurely and born dead [no better than an unperfected fetus among living men], 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.

Nearly 2000 years later, atheists, agnostics and revisionist historians continue to revive this fake news story. Using sources such as Gnostic gospels, written well after Christ’s death and resurrection, the search for Jesus’ missing body continues. Most of the shows referencing the Bible aired on the Discovery, History or Learning channels uses naturalistic scholars who believe this fake news story. Just in case you haven’t read Acts 1:9-11, news flash: Jesus ascended into heaven. According to the apostle Paul, without the resurrection there would be no faith. Thus, the next time someone tries to pass on this rumor as fact, don’t believe the fake news.

by Jay Mankus

Surviving These Days of Uncertainty

Everyone has a tipping point. This occurs when an evolving situation leads to a critical point, resulting in a new and irreversible development. Human beings can only handle so much until feelings boil over and erupt. For the African American community, the death of George Floyd ignited raw emotions that no longer could be kept within. One month later, tensions continue to be volatile as some peaceful protests have turned cities across the United States into riot zones.

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you], John 16:33.

When I look to the Bible to find answers for my concerns, Jesus has a way of providing comfort. While talking to his disciples about the future, Jesus refers to the fate of his followers. Instead of painting a rosy picture of a blessed and happy ending, life is filled with distress, frustrations and trials. If you want to survive these days of uncertainty, Jesus encourages individuals to be courageous and undaunted. Before completing his comments, Jesus reminds his disciples that He has overcome the world.

[Some] women received again their dead by a resurrection. Others were tortured to death with clubs, refusing to accept release [offered on the terms of denying their faith], so that they might be resurrected to a better life. 36 Others had to suffer the trial of mocking and scourging and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned to death; they were lured with tempting offers [to renounce their faith]; they were sawn asunder; they were slaughtered by the sword; [while they were alive] they had to go about wrapped in the skins of sheep and goats, utterly destitute, oppressed, cruelly treated—Hebrews 11:35-37.

The author of Hebrews takes Jesus’ words to the next level. The context of the passage above is at the end of a chapter known as the Hall of Faith. Instead of naming every worthy member of this spiritual family, the author highlights the cost of faith. Rather than bow down to the world in an attempt to be accepted and fit in, these saints were willing to die for their beliefs and convictions. When the Marxist’s mob run out of statues to topple, recent reports suggest that historic churches may be next on their list. If your house of worship is targeted, what are you going to do? May God help us all to get through these days of uncertainty with wisdom.

by Jay Mankus

Strange but True

Talking to yourself may not be natural, but people do think out loud.  When you hear voices or whispers, you may be imagining something that is not there.  However, when God speaks to certain individuals using a still small voice, this may sound strange but it is true.  According to Genesis 2:5-6, God’s initial creation did not include rain as a high water table allowed springs to water the earth.  Thus, when God addressed Noah about building an ark, no one had ever seen rain before.  Building a giant boat is one thing, but doing so without understanding the concept of a flood required a rock solid faith.

God said to Noah, “I intend to make an end of all that lives, for through men the land is filled with violence; and behold, I am about to destroy them together with the land. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make in it rooms (stalls, pens, coops, nests, cages, compartments) and coat it inside and out with pitch (bitumen), Genesis 6:13-14.

After the scattering of nations at Babel, God sought out a man named Abram.  The Lord promised Abram a great nation.  However, there was one major problem, Abram’s wife Sarai was barren, nearing the age where having a child is unlikely.  Initially, Abram took matters in his own hands, having Ishmael with a maid servant named Hagar.  As Sarai’s biological clock was nearing an end, the Lord performed a miracle as Isaac was born.  However, Genesis 21 unveils God’s request for Abraham to sacrifice his son.  As this drama unfolds, Abraham reaches a point where the only logical explanation for this offering is that God will resurrection his son.

Now [in Haran] the Lord had said to Abram, “Go away from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; 2  and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you [abundantly], and make your name great (exalted, distinguished); and you shall be a blessing [a source of great good to others]; Genesis 12:1-2.

These are just two examples from history that illustrate God’s ability to communicate with human beings.  Sometimes God uses a burning bush, a dream or sends an angel to supply his next set of directions.  Sometimes these words don’t make sense, but that is where faith comes into play.  Testimonies allow present Christians to tell their story of how God is working in their lives.  While these stories may appear strange as information is revealed, fellow believers will be encouraged by the wonderful ways in which God moves and works.

by Jay Mankus

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