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Developing a Heart for Kingdom Things

When you consider common talk radio debates such as who is the greatest, opinions vary.  Some look strictly at physical features.  Others point to sheer strength and overall talent.  Meanwhile, intelligence, personality and wit is not overlooked.  On some occasions, appearance, gravitas and stature can be so impressive that even a prophet of God is fooled.  Such was the case in Samuel’s quest, seeking to find and anoint the next king of Israel.  In a rush to complete this task, Samuel neglected a vital trait, someone with a heart for kingdom things.

So it happened, when they had come, he looked at Eliab [the eldest son] and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” 1 Samuel 16:6-7.

As Samuel approached a handsome young man, the oldest son of Jesse, the Holy Spirit spoke.  It’s not clear if a spirit of conviction fell upon Samuel or God appeared in the form of a whisper.  Regardless of the communication style chosen by God, the message was crystal clear, this man is not the one, lacking a heart focused on kingdom things.  Since the heart is hidden from plain view, people can masquerade, pretend and trick others from discovering what’s in their heart.  While Samuel looked to the oldest son of Jesse to find Saul’s replacement, God’s candidate was in the fields, serving as a lowly shepherd.  Also a musician, David relied on God to provide for his daily needs.

“Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].  “Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted].  “Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth.  “Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied, Matthew 5:3-6.

During his sermon on a mountain side, Jesus lists a series of qualities, beatitudes that serve as a to do list to develop a heart for kingdom things.  Like a spiritual blueprint, Jesus rolls out a vision to identify qualities Christian should spend their time on earth chasing after.  These characteristics are based upon sacrifice, servanthood and trusting God.  According to Jesus, individuals who pursue kingdom things will be completely satisfied.  While the world will continue to tempt souls to indulge their human nature, the Lord is searching for future leaders to elevate their faith.  May this blog inspire you to develop a heart for kingdom things.

by Jay Mankus

Grace or No Grace

One of the best illustrations I heard for grace comes in the form of an acronym.  God’s riches at Christ’s expense.  The concept of grace refers to free and unmerited favor; something you didn’t earn or deserve.  The apostle Paul suggests there may be an occasional exemption made for a good person, but grace isn’t grace without a sacrifice.

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die, Romans 5:7.

The beauty of grace comes in the form of the surprise.  You could be having the worst day of your life, on the verge of becoming a prodigal or set on rebellion.  No matter the candidate, God’s grace falls upon the worthy and unworthy.  This is where the human mind struggles to grasp this concept as the grace which people extend on earth is often based upon results.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8.

This mindset produces the thought, “grace or no grace.”  This selfish desire turns selective, forgiving those whom you like while holding grudges against those you despise.  Human nature feeds this desire as grace is only offered to family, friends and the deserving.  May the words of the passage above guide hearts and minds in the right direction, to love and forgive others just as Jesus did for you and me.

by Jay Mankus

Getting to Know God Through Fasting

When you are young and begin to notice the opposite sex, there are 5 things you can do to get someone’s attention.  The first three are obvious: shave and shower, put on cologne and deodorant, get dressed to impress others.  However, the final two require dedication and sacrifice.  Fully commit and submit to one person; then have the will to be faithfully compliant for the rest of your life.

Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking, Ruth 3;3.

Naomi’s mother in law provides similar advice after Naomi was done grieving the death of her husband.  Since Boaz is in line to be a kinsman redeemer, he becomes the obvious choice.  Yet, Naomi needed to take a bath, find her best perfume and replace her grieving clothes with a new attractive outfit.  The remaining two words of advice require action and an understanding of Jewish tradition.  Uncovering the feet of someone and lying at their feet is symbolic of full submission to an individual.  The last piece of advice in the verse below refers to fully committing, doing what is next.

When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do,” Ruth 3:4.

This 5 step process also applies to fasting.  The first step involves being freshly cleansed to get God’s attention, Isaiah 1:16.  When completed anoint yourself with the sweet fragrance of the word of God like the imagery within Ephesians 5:26.  Third, people need to replace a spirit of complaining by putting on the garment of praise, Isaiah 61:10.  Next, its vital to become fully committed and submissive by setting your heart and mind on things above, Colossians 3:1-3.  Finally, as you get to know God through fasting, faithfully commit to following God’s will, remembering the words of Jesus, “not my will, but yours be done,” Luke 22:42.

by Jay Mankus (inspired by a Jentezen Franklin sermon)

The Path to Excellence

As I examine successful athletes, authors and entrepreneurs, I find a common characteristic which exists.  Beyond a drive, focus and passion, those who rise above their competitors seize the moment daily.  Vision serves as a blue print to carry out and fulfill goals set by each individual.  Although delays and timing may be off, staying the course results in a path toward excellence.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize, 1 Corinthians 9:24.

When my two boys were much younger, each qualified for the Yes Athletics National Cross Country Championships for 3 consecutive years.  As an 8 year old, Daniel was the East Regional Champion.  However, when you compete against the best in the country, breaking the top 100 is an accomplishment.  After talking to other coaches, parents and runners, I realized my kids hadn’t put in the miles or training to have a chance to contend.

No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize, 1 Corinthians 9:27.

If you want to be considered elite, dedication, sacrifice and an unswerving concentration is a must.  Despite whatever talent you possess, the hungrier will creep up on anyone who isn’t willing to put in the time to improve.  Everyone will reach their limit at some point, but God will honor those who grind it out daily no matter how they are feeling.  I’m not sure what the future holds for my own aspirations, but I must fight with everything I have to keep my dreams alive by walking on the path to excellence.

by Jay Mankus

 

Making the Call to the Bullpen

After coaching my son’s baseball team the last several seasons, I decided to take this year off due to a busy work schedule.  Thus, when a pitcher starts to struggle, someone else has to make the call to the bullpen.  However, if they are too impatient, the coach might just remove their best player from the game.

For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess, Deuteronomy 30:16.

The game of baseball has several rules that you must know before you begin.  For example, you are only allowed to visit your pitcher once per inning.  If you’re not paying attention, you will be forced to change pitchers upon your second visit in the same inning.  Therefore, any manager must demonstrate prudence or else a quick hook could result in a loss.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God, Ephesians 5:1-2.

For those of you who don’t care about the game of baseball, you still have to make important decisions.  While these choices may not impact a team of kids, your friends, family and co-workers will be influenced by what you say or do.  In view of this, make sure you are slow to speak and think wisely before you make any decision in the future.

by Jay Mankus

 

Reasoning with God

As I read a portion of the Bible known as the Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11, there is a common characteristic found within many of these individuals.  In times of uncertainty, when life’s circumstances did not make sense, these historical and spiritual figures reasoned with God.   Instead of turning toward doubt, each trusted in God’s ability to resolve their situation with a Hollywood ending.

Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death, Hebrews 11:19.

Take for instance, Abraham who waited most of his life to have a son with his wife Sarah.  Shortly after receiving this promised child, God asked him to sacrifice Isaac.  Within Abraham’s heart, soul and mind, the concept of resurrection was conceived.  Thus, despite his confusion, Abraham took out a knife in faith, hoping and trusting that the Lord would provide a substitute, a replacement sacrifice for his son.

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict, Hebrews 11:23.

In modern times, life can be just as complex, not sure how or why God allows acts of terrorism, deadly diseases and failure to continue.  Yet, when trials arrive, Hebrews 11 exists to help people learn from models of faith.  Reasoning with God is a natural response, crying out to Him in prayer for understanding.  Although, answers may not come right away, don’t give up hope until God provides a solution for your latest dilemma.

by Jay Mankus

 

Sweat and Blood

The medical term for sweat and blood is hematidrosis.  Initial signs of this rare condition often develop from the forehead, underneath nails or begin as a nose bleed.  Meanwhile, the phrase blood, sweat and tears refers to pouring your heart and soul into a business, career or project.  When you invest a large portion of your life or time into something special, its like a woman giving birth, enduring labor pains until you see the end result, a child of God.

Jesus did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption, Hebrews 9:12.

While every venture in life is a noble cause, nothing compares to the sacrifice made by the Son of God.  Following Adam and Eve’s blunder, the serpent, symbolic of Satan, is notified about an individual who will crush his head.  Yet, this wasn’t possible until a series of event had to play out.  An the eve of the completion of God’s plan, overwhelming stress led Jesus’ sweat to become like blood.  Whether this was figuratively or literally occurred, it doesn’t matter.  The point is that an innocent man laid down his life, willing to die, once and for all to atone for the sins of the world.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, John 15:13.

As another Palm Sunday approaches, don’t forget about the sweat of blood endured for you and for me.  While everyone has their own unique struggles to conquer sin in their life, the author of Hebrews has a simple suggestion.  In your battle against sin, you have not shed blood like Jesus.  Therefore, lean on God’s grace, throw off those things holding you back spiritually and thank the Lamb of God for giving everyone a second chance.  May the truth about the resurrection revive and rejuvenate your faith this Easter and continue throughout the year.

by Jay Mankus

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