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Tag Archives: Sermon on the Mount

Going Off to an Invisible War

When individuals turn 18 in the United States, you can register to vote and enlist into the military if that is the path you want to choose. Prior to January 27th 1973, young men were forced to serve this country via a draft. Today, nearly 60 countries around the world still have some form of service conscription. As for modern day Christians, instead of heading off to boot camp for training, all you need to find is a quiet before going off to an invisible war.

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.

This concept was first introduced by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. The context of this passage was to ensure that prayer was done in a private setting, not as a way to show off in public as some Pharisees were doing. Jesus didn’t just preach to the masses, He lived out biblical disciplines. One of the apostle Paul’s ministry helpers recalls the time Jesus went missing in the middle of the night. As the disciples began to panic, Jesus was merely going off to an invisible war.

And in the morning, long before daylight, He got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed. 36 And Simon [Peter] and those who were with him followed Him pursuing Him eagerly and hunting Him out], 37 And they found Him and said to Him, Everybody is looking for You. 38 And He said to them, Let us be going on into the neighboring country towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out, Mark 1:35-38.

Jesus went for a walk before sunset, finding a quiet place to begin his day with prayer. While Mark does not provide the length of time spent out in the wilderness, Jesus likely prayed for more than an hour, possibly two. As Jesus arose from this spiritual battle on his knees, He was armed with exactly where to go and what to do. As King Solomon once wrote about, “many are the plan’s in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose prevail,” Proverbs 19:21. This is what it means to go off to an invisible war.

by Jay Mankus

An Atheist with Passion

During a late night drive to Liberty University, I took a stroll down Memory Lane. Listening to a 2 CD set from In Reach, a Christian Band with lead vocalist Brett Williams, I was taken back in time to the 1990’s. The Waterline album debuted my senior year of college and Power and Promise came out while I was attending a Youth Ministry Trade School. A line from their song Savannah, “An Atheist with passion” reminded me of a former student.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light, Matthew 6:22.

Since 2011 was my last year of teaching high school, certain songs tend to help me recall the good and difficult times in my classroom. Jennifer was a byproduct of a broken home. Apparently, her older sister was the only adult in the house, making sure she got her two younger sisters to school on time every morning. While Jen’s parents claimed to be Bible believing Christians, their actions continued to feed fleshly desires. Subsequently, this hypocrisy left a sour taste in Jen’s soul, conceiving an Atheist with passion.

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 6:23

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns his followers of the side affects of darkness. When addictions, bad habits or poor choices continue to happen, it’s only a matter of time before you too may find yourself in a similar state like Jennifer. During tests and quizzes, Jen regularly shared her disdain for Christianity. As a Bible teacher at this time, it was a hard pill to swallow. Yet, as time went by, all I could do was be a light for Christ. All Christians can do today is hope and pray that something you say or live out will persuade future Jen’s to leave their state of darkness by coming to the light.

by Jay Mankus

Let Light Shine Out of Darkness

The term light appears 272 times in the Bible. Meanwhile, there are 433 instances where light is eluded to as being “a lamp unto our feet,” Psalm 119:105. Beyond the physical element of light, the Bible uses light as a spiritual illumination of the truth. Thus, when the apostle Paul writes about letting light shine out of darkness, truth stands out in a dark and fallen world.

For God Who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts so as [to beam forth] the Light for the illumination of the knowledge of the majesty and glory of God [as it is manifest in the Person and is revealed] in the face of Jesus Christ (the Messiah), 2 Corinthians 4:6.

The expression to beam forth suggests that this light has supernatural powers. Instead of illuminating darkness so that human eyes can see, God’s light shines straight into our hearts, Romans 10:9-10. Similar to Jesus’ analogy in his Sermon on the Mount, spiritual light is designed to shine within your house and throughout your city, Matthew 5:14-16. According to Jesus, shining light via actions are more persuasive than words.

However, we possess this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and not from ourselves, 2 Corinthians 4:7.

Jesus foretold of a time when you could worship God face to face, not just in a temple on the Sabbath. The apostle Paul builds upon this concept in a letter to the Church at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20. Paul compares human bodies to a spiritual temple. While there are always glimpses of darkness within every soul, Matthew 6:23, eyes are the lamp of bodies. If your eyes remain stay focused on God, light can still shine out of darkness.

by Jay Mankus

I Want Something More Than a Message

Depending upon the leader, pastor or speaker at your church, you may or may not be inspired by a sermon. The book definition of inspiration is the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something. Thus, as you sit in chairs, pews or watch socially distant at home, the message will move you to act, put you to sleep or cause you to reflect upon a certain aspect of your life. According to an individual who attended the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus urged his followers to put his words into action via practice.

So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts upon them [obeying them] will be like a sensible (prudent, practical, wise) man who built his house upon the rock. 25 And the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a stupid (foolish) man who built his house upon the sand. 27 And the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great and complete was the fall of it. When Jesus had finished these sayings [the Sermon on the Mount], the crowds were astonished and overwhelmed with bewildered wonder at His teaching, Matthew 7:24-28.

After being an eye witness of another miracle by Jesus, the disciples were sent by boat to cross the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. However, during the night a squall churned up the waves, making it nearly impossible to cross. While this storm was brewing, Jesus decided to take a shortcut, walking across this body of water. Despite their close relationship with Jesus, Peter was the only disciple who wanted something more than just a message. Perhaps motivated by the feeding of the 5000, Peter took a step of faith.

Then He directed the disciples to get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent away the crowds. 23 And after He had dismissed the multitudes, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. When it was evening, He was still there alone. 24 But the boat was by this time out on the sea, many furlongs [a furlong is one-eighth of a mile] distant from the land, beaten and tossed by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch [between 3:00—6:00 a.m.] of the night, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified and said, It is a ghost! And they screamed out with fright. 27 But instantly He spoke to them, saying, Take courage! I Am! Stop being afraid! 28 And Peter answered Him, Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water. 29 He said, Come! So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, and he came toward Jesus. 30 But when he perceived and felt the strong wind, he was frightened, and as he began to sink, he cried out, Lord, save me [from death]! – Matthew 14:22-30

Once outside the boat, Peter began to actually walk, stepping over each incoming wave. According to Matthew, a strong gust of wind caused Peter to become afraid. This fear took Peter’s eyes off of Jesus, turning his attention toward his circumstance, the storm. Subsequently, Peter began to sink beneath the crashing waves. Although Peter’s faith failed, he was the only disciple willing to get out of the boat. While no one likes to be embarrassed, if you want something more than just a message, practicing your faith means be willing to risk failure daily.

by Jay Mankus

Make Sure That You are Knocking on the Right Door

Long before the days of cell and telephones, if you wanted to talk to someone you would go over to where they lived or write a letter. If this desired individual lived close by or in a nearby neighborhood, walking over to knock on the front door was a common practice. In the days of my youth, I regularly rode my bike or walked over to a friends’ house. On a couple of occasions, usually at night, I knocked on the wrong door. These embarrassing moments were short lived by quickly getting directions to where I needed to go.

When he, at a glance, became aware of this [comprehending all the elements of the case], he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark, where a large number were assembled together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the gate of the porch, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. 14 And recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she failed to open the gate, but ran in and told the people that Peter was standing before the porch gate, Acts 12:12-14.

However, sometimes you are at the right place, but are surprised by who answers the door. Perhaps, a friend, relative or visiting neighbor greets you. Following a period of awkwardness, you are able to enjoy a time of fellowship. During the first century, Peter was at the right house, but the residents inside didn’t believe their maid. Rhoda opened the front gate, but not the front door, running inside to tell everyone the great news. Despite their pedigree of faith, a house of unbelieving souls doubted Rhoda until a persistent Peter kept knocking until he was finally let inside.

They said to her, You are crazy! But she persistently and strongly and confidently affirmed that it was the truth. They said, It is his angel! 16 But meanwhile Peter continued knocking, and when they opened the gate and saw him, they were amazed, Acts 12:15-16.

Near the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares praying to knocking on a door, Matthew 7:7-8. Jesus expounds upon this analogy with a three step process: asking, seeking and knocking. Everyone has probably experienced a moment of prayer where God seemed distant. Yet, when doubts begin to creep into your thoughts, Jesus urges believers to press on by continuing to seek God. Finally, if the Lord hasn’t clearly answered your request, keep knocking on God’s door like the persistent widow, Luke 18:1-8, until justice arrives. In today’s scenario, fasting and praying until a cure for the Coronavirus is found.

by Jay Mankus

One Raspberry

At one of the Holocaust museums, a special poem highlights the poverty that existed during this time period. Gerda Weissmann Klein details this specific act of kindness. After being dragged away from their homes and escorted to concentration camps, one individual found a fresh raspberry, placing it inside their pocket. Instead of fulfilling their hunger pains, this raspberry was offered as a gift to a friend.

And Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and saw how the crowd was casting money into the treasury. Many rich [people] were throwing in large sums. 42 And a widow who was poverty-stricken came and put in two copper mites [the smallest of coins], which together make half of a cent, Mark 12:41-42.

Earlier in the first century, Jesus witnessed a similar act of kindness. While most onlookers were eager to see what the rich were giving, Jesus watched a widow give everything she possessed. Broke, homeless and lonely without a family to take care of her needs, this widow understood the concept of daily bread. It’s unclear if this woman was present at the Sermon on the Mount of Olives, but she trusted that God would somehow provide her next meal.

Give us this day our daily bread, Matthew 6:11.

As the Coronavirus continues to close businesses, restaurants and stores across the country, sources of income are vanishing. Meanwhile, church services are being cancelled as pastors are live streaming sermons in front of a few people. As wealth is disappearing while the Stock Market continues to plummet, tithing is limited to online donations. This current crisis is forcing individuals to rethink their giving practices. Are you going to hold on to what you have in your pocket or raid your spare change jar to give? Whatever you decide, may the One Raspberry poem inspire you to give what you have to meet someone else’s needs.

by Jay Mankus

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

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