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Tag Archives: Sermon on the Mount

Prayer Should be Sensed; Not Just Promised

After I accepted Jesus as my Savior on December 4th, 1984, I began my exploratory stage of Christianity. I started attending a local youth group in the middle of my sophomore year of high school. This decision created a desire to draw closer to God as I couldn’t get enough church events. Soon I joined an accountability group, followed by a Bible Study and sharing group. The only downside to these experiences is that I often found myself promising to pray for people, but forgetting to actually take the time to pray after leaving.

Also when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward in full already, Matthew 6:5.

During a sermon on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gives two examples of prayer. The first illustration conveys how not to pray. The second reveals that prayer is meant to be an intimate conversation with God. Thus, the first thing you need to do is withdraw to a quiet place, away from all the distractions in life. The final sentence in the passage below suggests that God rewards those who spend time alone with God in prayer. From my own personal experiences over the past 35 years, powerful prayer is sensed by those you are praying for and within the place where you are praying.

But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open, Matthew 6:6.

The 2015 film War Room illustrates how lives can be transformed when Christians get serious about prayer. Unfortunately, procrastination cause many to take a casual approach to prayer, waiting until accidents, emergencies or tragedy happen before pouring out their hearts to God. While my own War Room has become my bedroom, Jesus eludes to using a closet to pray. Whatever place you find and make as your own, make sure that your prayers are sensed and not just promised.

by Jay Mankus

When Evil Overshadows Goodness

Evil is defined as profoundly immoral and wicked. Synonyms include bad, corrupt, depraved, foul, sinful, ungodly and wrong. When America was founded, Christians left Great Britain to start a new country with an emphasis on freedom of religion. Pilgrims and Puritans got on ships to set sail to this new land. To ensure that not just the elite and wealthy received education, schools were founded by churches to teach common people the Bible. Up until the early 1960’s, public schools used intercoms to read the Bible verse of the day into homerooms. This practice was designed to promote goodness over evil.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20

If you study history, civilizations go through cycles that often repeat itself when mistakes of the past aren’t corrected or learned from. According to one Old Testament prophet, Israel had turned away from God. During this period of darkness, some Jews began to confuse evil with good. Unfortunately, this pattern is nothing new. If you use nightly news as an example, how does each broadcast begin? Usually with breaking news of an accident, crash, disaster, tragedy or violence. At some point, this ambulance chasing mentality has placed ratings as a higher priority than truth, justice and the American way. Subsequently, evil overshadows stories of goodness on a nightly basis.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light. But if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the very light in you [your conscience] is darkened, how dense is that darkness! – Matthew 6:22-23

Jesus addresses this topic during his sermon on the mount. According to the passage above, eyes are the lamp of human bodies. If your eyes use sound judgement, your entire body will be full of light and goodness. However, if anyone falls prey to lust, 1 John 2:15-17, individuals open the door for evil to enter your life. When enticement results in unsound practices, Jesus points out that consciences are darkened. This is how evil overshadows goodness. When evil is allowed to reside within human hearts, justification and rationalization follow. May this blog serve as a warning to regain control of wandering eyes. The sooner confession elicits a contrite heart, goodness can prevail as long as evil is disposed of and purged from your life.

by Jay Mankus

When Religion and Politics Mix

Los Angeles became the first city in the United States to be designated as a sanctuary city.  This 1979 decision was designed to prevent police from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees.  Today, there are 36 other United State cities that have adopted this policy.  In recent years, churches in border states have been recruited to hide and protect illegal immigrants.  From time to time, I see cable news exclusives of local pastors defending their position.  This is where religion and politics mix.

But the Jews incited the devout, prominent women and the leading men of the city, and instigated persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them forcibly out of their district, Acts 13:50.

During the first century, Jewish leaders were fearful of the Jesus movement.  As more Jews converted to Christianity, influence and political power was being lost.  Thus, high priests, Pharisees, Sadducees and zealots sought whatever means necessary to stop any other Jews from turning their back on their Jewish heritage.  According to Luke, Jewish leaders used prominent, powerful and wealthy individuals to drive Christian leaders from their district.  This is where religious obsessions cloud minds and judgment.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless, James 1:26.

An earthly brother of Jesus makes an interesting observation in the passage above.  Religion and politics can and will mix from time to time, but if your tongue leads you astray, religion is worthless.  Jesus uses an analogy of a city on a hill in his Sermon on the Mount.  Christians are suppose to stand out, like a city with bright lights in the dark.  Actions, behavior and words reflect what is inside of your heart.  Unfortunately, the pressure of religion and politics may result in compromise, temptation or unexpected words.  When religion and politics and a fall from grace ensues, may conviction bring you back to the place where God desires.

by Jay Mankus

Bring Me Back

Sometimes life is like being placed into a giant maze without a map.  Whenever you make the wrong turn, its like one step forward, two steps back.  As soon as you hit a dead end, you have to go back to where you started, retracing your steps to find a way out.  If you don’t have any helper, guide or visible signs, this journey will last much longer than expected.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it, Matthew 7:13-14.

The Bible serves as a road map to bring you back to God’s desired destination.  During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares life to a series of roads.  The most popular ones are like interstate highways, well defined and marked.  However, Jesus uses the analogy of a small path to illustrate the road to heaven.  Somebody has cleared the path, but if you stray off to the left or right, its easy to lose your way.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

The author of Hebrews refers to a great Hall of Faith, saints who have showed people the way to heaven.  Comparing life to a marathon, completing this race requires endurance and persistence.  When I get up each morning, I don’t always feel like doing the right thing.  There are plenty of days when I am exhausted, tired and worn down with little motivation to stay on track.  The group Evanescence sings about this state in their song Bring Me Back to Life.  This blog and song are dedicated to those who need to be brought back into God’s presence.

by Jay Mankus

Heaven is Not for Everyone

I am always cautious when I try to tackle an unpopular topic. Yet, whenever I attend a funeral where a member of the clergy assumes or suggests that heaven is for everyone, I cringe. While God is the ultimate judge, a person’s witness typically leaves behind a trail of bread crumbs for friends and family to follow. Depending upon actions, deeds and faith demonstrated, you will find assurance, doubt or uncertainty for the eternal fate of those whom you love.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13-14.

Jesus comments on two passages about heaven. The first focuses on the percentage of individuals that will end up in heaven or hell. The second details a necessary requirement to be forgiven by God. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush, blunt to his audience. You have two choices, follow the narrow path that leads to everlasting life or follow the crowd down the road toward eternal loss.

Then He opened their minds to [help them] understand the Scriptures, 46 and said, “And so it is written, that the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed) would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance [necessary] for forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things, Luke 24:45-48.

One of Jesus’ final words before acsending into heaven focuses on how New Testament Jews can find forgiveness through repentance. Biblical repentance contains two requisites, turn away from evil and turn back toward God. If one of these two steps is skipped, true repentance is not achieved. Thus, if anyone wants to approach death with eternal security, 1 John 5:13, repentance needs to become a daily practice. While I hate to be a Debbie downer, the Bible clearly states heaven is not for everyone.

by Jay Mankus

Fruit Inspectors

Quality Control is a system for verifying and maintaining a desired level of quality for a product.  Companies accomplish this through careful planning, use of proper equipment, continued inspection, and a corrective plan of action.  The roots of Total Quality Management can be traced back to the early 1920’s when statistical theory was first applied to product quality control.  By the 1940’s, Japan further developed quality control resulting in prosperous manufacturers especially in the automobile industry in the years that followed.

“Beware of the false prophets, [teachers] who come to you dressed as sheep [appearing gentle and innocent], but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them [that is, by their contrived doctrine and self-focus]. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? – Matthew 7:15-16

The Bible refers to a different kind of quality control system.  Jesus urges listeners of his Sermon on the Mount to become fruit inspectors.  Instead of determining the quality of a specific fruit, Jesus wants individuals to discern, examine and observe other human beings.  Afraid of counterfeit, fake and phony people deceiving honest souls, Jesus compares fruit to the content of someone’s character.  Like a mentor steering his students in the right direction, Jesus reveals what to look for when encountering any religious teacher.

Even so, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the unhealthy tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore, by their fruit you will recognize them [as false prophets], Matthew 7:17-20.

In the passage above, Jesus provides guidelines to follow for fruit inspectors.  The apostle Paul builds upon this concept in a letter to the church of Thessalonica.  During a visit to Berea, Paul was impressed by a culture of fairness, not jumping to any conclusions.  Paul references their example by encouraging others to test everything that you hear with the Bible to see if it’s true, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.  Quality fruit inspectors examine the facts, hold on to what is good and discard everything else.  May this blueprint allow you to perfect your ability to become a skilled fruit inspector.

by Jay Mankus

En Fuego

When Sports Center on ESPN was in its prime, at its height in popularity, the term en fuego was adopted to highlight a player who was on fire.  In other words, this individual had an unbelievable game, rarely missing if at all.  The noun fuego is a volcano in south central Guatemala.  When translated from Spanish into English fuego means fire or flame.  Someone on fire can not be hidden as their light magnifies and pierces through any nearby darkness.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.  Serve the Lord with gladness and delight; Come before His presence with joyful singing, Psalm 100:1-2.

In the passage above, the Psalmist describes someone who is spiritually on fire.  Heat is displayed by developing a heart for thanksgiving.  As servants of God begin to verbalize all that God has done, joy begins to overflow like a volcano ready to erupt.  When the Holy Spirit ignites souls with gladness, faith bubbles and oozes out of individuals naturally.  This delight moves Christians toward God’s presence; then enter the Lord’s courts with praise 7 days a week.

“You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven, Matthew 5:14-16.

During his sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses an analogy to illustrate en fuego Christian life.  Faith is like a candle light, a flame used to expose the darkness around you.  As individuals add fuel to this fire, this light expands to reveal every imperfection in your life.  The closer you get to God, the more God uncovers your flaws.  This reality makes some fearful, overwhelmed by conviction and guilt.  Yet, if you want to be en fuego spiritually, blazing a trail for others to follow, place your trust in Jesus.  When you do, your faith will shine bright like a city on a hill.

by Jay Mankus

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