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Prepare Yourself for Perilous Times

Eschatology comes from the Greek word ἔσχατος. When translated into English, éschatos refers to the part of theology concerned with the final events of history. One of the Gospel authors devotes an entire chapter to the signs of the times. In the passage below, Matthew highlights specific events to look for as Jesus reflect upon what the end of times will resemble. This chapter serves as a map to prepare readers of the Bible for perilous times.

While He was seated on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately and said, Tell us, when will this take place, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end (the completion, the consummation) of the age? Jesus answered them, Be careful that no one misleads you [deceiving you and leading you into error]. For many will come in (on the strength of) My name [appropriating the name which belongs to Me], saying, I am the Christ (the Messiah), and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened or troubled, for this must take place, but the end is not yet, Matthew 24:3-6.

The initial sign of the times is wars and rumors of wars. This is followed by famines and earthquakes. The imagery Jesus chooses to describe these perilous times like the pain a woman endures during the child bearing process. The book of Daniel in the Old Testament and Revelation in the New Testament refer to specific events that set in motion the arrival of the anti-Christ. If you’re not taken up into heaven by the Rapture, Jesus’ second coming, these perilous times will be beyond what most individuals can handle.

But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear], 2 Timothy 3:1.

In view of what lies ahead, I am reminded of something that Jesus says during the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. In the middle of this famous speech, Jesus provides advice to prepare yourself for perilous times. Matthew 6:34 highlights that each day has enough trouble of it’s own. Therefore, don’t be overwhelmed by the circumstances that is beyond your control. Rather, take one day at a time, with the perspective that each new day is a gift from God.

by Jay Mankus

Is this the End?

Every generation has their own perspective on what’s going on in the world. My grandparents endured at least one World War. My father lived through the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis. While I don’t have any grandchildren yet, when I take time to look around at society, I don’t like what I see. Like scenes from apocalyptic movies of the past, all signs indicate that the end of the world as we know it is approaching.

But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear]. For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane, 2 Timothy 3:1-2.

In Matthew 24, the disciples beg Jesus to reveal what the end of days will look like. While Jesus doesn’t give a specific date in the future, a series of events of mentioned so that Christians won’t be caught off guard. The apostle Paul takes a different approach to the last days of the earth. Based upon a revelation that he received from God, Paul describes specific attitudes and behaviors that will become more obvious as this day draws near.

[They will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement); [they will be] slanderers (false accusers, troublemakers), intemperate and loose in morals and conduct, uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good. [They will be] treacherous [betrayers], rash, [and] inflated with self-conceit. [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God, 2 Timothy 3:3-4.

As a former high school teacher, I like to make lists so that I can stay on track. When I recently read 2 Timothy 3:2-4, I began to mentally visualize each of these selfish actions. As I went through this list, I silently said “check, check, check.” While I try to be a positive person, current events and people on social media make me wonder exactly how close is the end? If you want to know more on this topic, read the Book of Revelation. Yet, the best thing you can do in the meantime is to be shining stars in a dark and dying world, Philippians 2:13-16.

by Jay Mankus

Citizens of a Spiritual Commonwealth

As of September 2020, the Bible has been translated into 704 languages. While the original text consists of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, there are now 900 different English translations of the Bible. Unfortunately, in this age of commercialism, certain expressions and words have been lost in translation. For example, the New King James Version uses heaven 327 times in the Old Testament and 255 times in the New Testament. Meanwhile, heaven is only mentioned 422 times in the entire New International Version.

But we are citizens of the state (commonwealth, homeland) which is in heaven, and from it also we earnestly and patiently await [the coming of] the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [as] Savior, Philippians 3:20.

For this reason, I appreciate the Amplified Version which includes all the possible English translations. In the passage above, Paul describes heaven as a commonwealth, homeland, and state. This invisible destination awaits for those who trust in the name of the Lord, Romans 10:9-11. One of Jesus’ disciples received a revelation about what this place will be like, Revelation 21:4. According to John, there will be no more crying, mourning or pain. Heaven is a place where tears will be wiped away.

Who will transform and fashion anew the body of our humiliation to conform to and be like the body of His glory and majesty, by exerting that power which enables Him even to subject everything to Himself, Philippians 3:21.

The apostle Paul takes the concept of heaven one step further. While our earthly bodies are temporary, citizens of heaven will receive a new body that will last for eternity. Another disciple of Jesus refers to heaven’s unusual timeline. According to Peter, one day with the Lord is like a thousand years on earth, 2 Peter 3:8. This is what citizens of this spiritual commonwealth have to look forward to. Don’t get left out as you still have time to make a reservation this Mother’s Day, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Doubt Kills

An arrival or occurrence of something in overwhelming quantities of water or amounts of debris highlight the magnitude of a tsunami.  This act of God can erase a beach, tropical destination or village in a matter of minutes.  Like a scene out of a chapter from Revelation, the Christmas morning tsunami which struck Thailand in 2004 devastated this region.  In the passage below, the earthly brother of Jesus compares doubt with a spiritual tsunami that can ravage souls.

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind, James 1:6.

From time to time, I will cross paths with an extremely negative individual.  Fueled by doubt, this unhealthy presence can persuade hopeful hearts to become consumed by stress, worry and unrest.  Unless this invisible force is extinguished, doubt will continue to spread, poisoning souls one group at a time.  While the initial traces of doubt may appear vague, roots of bitterness will rise up from within troubled hearts, brewing until verbal assaults are unleashed in person or via social media.

And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen, Matthew 21:21.

Jesus addressed doubt on numerous occasions with his own disciples.  These exchanges reveal his frustration as future leaders of the church became numb to the miracles performed by Jesus daily, John 21:25.  Perhaps, the words in the passage above are a call to snap out of it; wake up to the power of faith.  Using the surrounding mountains as a teachable aid, Jesus exclaims, “see that mountain over there, you can move that which stands in your way through faith.”  Yet, if doubt lingers, any dreams that you have will die.  Therefore, believe, have faith and put your trust in God before doubt kills another victim.

by Jay Mankus

Your Next is Greater Than Your Now

Financial planners seek to guide individuals toward fulfilling their dreams in life.  Depending upon how soon families begin to set aside funds for retirement, this process requirements discipline, focus and numerous sacrifices.  Yet, all these preparations don’t ensure a happy ending.  Thus, its essential that people begin to trust God, believing that your next is greater than your now.

For I want you to know, believers, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel [it is not a human invention, patterned after any human concept]. 12 For indeed I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a [direct] revelation of Jesus Christ.  You have heard of my career and former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to hunt down and persecute the church of God extensively and [with fanatical zeal] tried [my best] to destroy it, Galatians 1:11-13.

During a letter to the church in Galatia, the apostle Paul gives a brief summary of his past, present and desire to follow God’s will in the future.  Paul doesn’t shy away from his ignorant past, blinded by a religious zeal for Judaism.  This obsession led Paul to conspire against the founding of the first century church.  Perhaps, the words of Stephen prior to his persecution and death broke through Saul’s calloused heart.

But when God, who had chosen me and set me apart before I was born, and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles [as the good news—the way of salvation], I did not immediately consult with anyone [for guidance regarding God’s call and His revelation to me]. 17 Nor did I [even] go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia and stayed awhile, and afterward returned once more to Damascus, Galatians 1:15-17.

After being blinded on the road to Damascus, this set forward a chain of events resulting in Paul’s salvation.  The first thing Paul did following his conversion was going home to tell family and friends what God had done for him.  The Bible is silent on how Paul’s Jewish parents responded to and received this news.  Nonetheless, Paul quickly came to the conclusion that your next is greater than your now with Jesus.  Although, this doesn’t ensure a story book ending on earth, but a personal relationship with Jesus Christ does secure an eternal reservation in heaven, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Not About Deserve…It’s About What You Believe

From 1973 to 1986, the Super Friends was a popular television show on ABC geared for kids.  Based upon characters from DC Comics, this series used the Justice League as the home for super heroes who took turns each episode fighting evil in the world.  Over time, antagonists joined forces to create chaos in what became known as the Legion of Doom.  Every day, good and evil collided with battles won and lost, encouraging viewers to root for their favorite hero or foe.

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe,” Mark 5:36.

Thirty one year later, DC Comics has introduced a modern film placing Wonder Woman on the front lines during World War II.  Gal Gadot plays Diana who saves a British spy, Chris Pine, from drowning.  After being interrogated by Amazonian leaders, Diana uncovers some of her special super hero powers.  This revelation prompts Diana to leave her home with special agent Trevor.  Diana believes that if only she could kill the source of evil, the German leader, the war would come to an end.  When this doesn’t happen, Diana has a crisis of faith, doubting if the human race is worth saving.  Steve quickly intervenes, teaching Diana a valuable lesson, “It’s not about deserve, it’s about what you believe!”

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8.

Normally when I watch a movie, I am disappointed by the lack of depth.  Yet, the line above in this film spoke to me.  No one is perfect, as flaws exist within every living being.  These imperfections may be mild or blatantly obvious.  Nonetheless, Jesus believed everyone is worth saving.  Humanly speaking, you can’t change what the world thinks or believes, but you can change yourself.  As this subtle transformation begins, glimpses of Christ’s light appears, illuminated by the power of the Holy Spirit.  You may not possess superhuman strength like a superhero, but faith can make a difference in your life and those around you.  Thus, the next time you begin to lose hope in people, remember the words from Steve’s character, “It’s not about deserve, it’s about what you believe!”

by Jay Mankus

I Wouldn’t Trade Things For the World

My wife’s oldest living relative is ninety nine.  Up until six years ago, Aunt Peg hosted a Thanksgiving Day celebration at her home in Kewanee, Illinois.  Every other Thanksgiving served as a reunion for the Hanson and Wagner families in southwestern, Illinois.  Days prior to my wedding twenty two years ago, I was introduced to ninety strangers who would soon become relatives.  While at times this was more of an interrogation, I played along trying to remember as many faces and names as I could for our reception.  Marrying into a large extended family can be overwhelming, yet I have grown to appreciate the special personalities within Leanne’s family.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me,” Matthew 4:8-9.

Working for Amazon the past five years hasn’t afforded me the opportunity to travel out to Chicago for this festive event.  Like a prodigal son, I felt compelled to make the effort this year, especially with the passing of Leanne’s father.  Flying out after work one morning, I was able to reconnect with Leanne’s side of the family.  Following a typical Thanksgiving meal, the Hansons usually puts on a talent show aptly named the Hanson Family Theater.  However, this year each attendee was asked to give a thirty second infomercial, a synopsis of their current life.  While I was dreading the idea of fifty people standing up one after another,  I was pleasantly surprised.  Instead of enduring boredom, I appreciated the commonality exhibited by almost everyone.  Faith, family and God is the bond that has kept this tradition alive for half a century.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only,” Matthew 4:10.

As Leanne and I inch closer to the half century mark in age, I had a revelation last night.  Actually, this was more of an insight to where I am in life.  As much as I complain about my current job, I see the hidden blessing of only working four nights a week.  Despite missing out on any type of social life, I have been able to attend nearly all of my kids sporting events.  I have been there to rejoice in victories, comfort after defeat and explain from a coaching perspective why things played out as they did.  My resume isn’t exciting; nor is my income self-sufficient.  Nonetheless, I have embraced my role as a father, raising my children to the best of my ability.  Sure, I have several flaws, imperfections and weaknesses, but I have reached a state of contentment.   I still have bigger dreams and goals that I would like to fulfill, but I wouldn’t trade things for the world.

by Jay Mankus

Prepared for the Anointing?

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In the film Facing the Giants, the head football coach at Shiloh High accidently walks by a private meeting to oust him as coach.  Devastated by this revelation, a conversation with the janitor the next day changes his perspective.  This wise man recalls a parable of farmers waiting for rain to plant crops.  Only one man plowed his fields in expectation of God’s answer to prayers for water.  The janitor asked this coach at the end of his story, which one are you?

But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him, 1 John 2:27.

Author Gary Smalley wrote a book entitled the Blessing when I was in college.  A friend suggested that I should read this before getting married.  During a marriage encounter seminar that Leanne and I attended while engaged, this resource was confirmed as a must read.  The book examines the Old Testament practice of Jewish fathers passing on a blessing to their oldest son.  However, in the case of Isaac and Jacob, the youngest deceives his brother to receive this special anointing.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,” Luke 4:18.

Due to a breakdown in the American family, absentee fathers aren’t around to bless, develop and raise their own children.  Meanwhile, the passing of the torch from one generation to the next is being dropped.  Subsequently, young men are being robbed of this blessing.  These circumstances have created a mood where doubt reigns.  Until this atmosphere changes, no one is preparing for the anointing of God due to a lack of hope and faith.  May divine intervention reverse this trend.

by Jay Mankus

 

Spoiler Alert

As society evolves, new words arrive on the scene to define what’s really happening.  Such is the case of a spoiler alert, derived from someone watching a repeat of an episode, film or show.  Individuals sometimes memorize lines or think out loud, ruining a punch line before a first time listener can enjoy it.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel,” Genesis 3:15.

While clergy, pastors and theologians may use lofty words, the Bible is full of spoiler alerts.  These clues are known as prophecy, a foreshadowing of what God is planning to do in the future.  Following the fall of mankind, also known as original sin, the author places a subtle hint in between the punishment of Adam and Eve.  The passage above promises to send someone a second Adam to restore that which was lost.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost,” Luke 19:10.

A well known doctor echoes this point in the New Testament.  Luke issues this spoiler alert to his readers, highlighting purpose for Jesus’ life on earth.  Meanwhile, the disciple John shares another spoiler alert at the end of the book of Revelation.  The plot for life has been exposed, but the hardest part is the waiting for God’s prophecies to be fulfilled.  May faith carry you to the finish line or as show biz states, “the grand finale.”

by Jay Mankus

God is Not Finished with America Yet

If you have ever read or studied the Bible’s last book, you will find something fascinating.  Revelation writes about several countries that exist today, but the United States and or a western influence is not mentioned.  This absence has led many scholars to suggest America’s run as one of the greatest nations on earth will end before Jesus returns.

Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved, Psalm 80:19.

During the 2016 presidential election, many citizens likely felt the United States was on the verge of falling apart.  Whether its was inappropriate behavior, scandals or vicious ads, the future did not look promising.  Nonetheless, the votes of the forgotten man and woman may be a sign that America still has a pulse.

Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? – Psalm 85:6

In the Old Testament, Psalmists provided some hope for Israelites who where doubting the lack of God’s presence in their day.  The verses above can also be applied to Americans who share similar feelings.  Although I don’t know what the future holds, God is the source for revival today.  Therefore, whether you are a Hillary or Trump supporter, may the Holy Spirit awaken dead and dying souls to complete the will of God for this nation.

by Jay Mankus

 

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