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Resting on this Hope

When I was a child watching sporting events, there always seemed to be someone holding up a John 3:16 Sign. I was too young realize that this was one of the most iconic verses in the Bible. The gospel author who wrote down Jesus’ words to a Pharisee named Nicodemus appears to refer to this in the passage below. The hope that Christians are resting on is the promise of eternal life.

And everyone who has this hope [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure (chaste, undefiled, guiltless), 1 John 3:3.

In this age of war, the Coronavirus, and death, the thought of another world is promising. Yet, the skeptic will exclaim that “this sounds too good to be true.” Like the moving scene in Shawshank Redemption, you have two choices in life: get busying living or get busying dying? Or as Moses explains in his farewell address in Deuteronomy 30:15-16, every decision that you make in life will either draw you toward life or death.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten ([d]unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

Perhaps the point that John is trying to make is that without the concept of heaven, we have no hope. Returning to Shawshank Redemption, hope is what kept Andy alive while being in prison. Yet, for Red hope is dangerous, any empty promise for someone sentenced to life in prison. Faith is resting in the promise of the passage above. Christians place their trust in Jesus and rest in the hope of heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Get Busy Living or Accept Dying?

The most iconic movie in my lifetime is Shawshank Redemption. While Shawshank Redemption didn’t do exceedingly well at the box office in 1994, this film has developed a cult following today. There are several scenes that you may replay in your mind, but the attached clip is by far the most powerful. As Andy and Red talk about what they will do if they get out of prison, the scene is set for the classic line “Get busy living or get busy dying?”

So, since Christ suffered in the flesh [a]for us, for you, arm yourselves with the same thought and [b]purpose [patiently to suffer rather than fail to please God]. For whoever has suffered in the flesh [having [c]the mind of Christ] is done with [intentional] sin [has stopped pleasing himself and the world, and pleases God], 1 Peter 4:1.

You don’t have to go to prison to feel hopeless inside. During my final summer as a college student, I had become a full-blown hypocrite, James 1:14-15. Bad choices, poor decisions and sinful habits caused my relationship with God to come to a screeching halt. After breaking my ankle playing sand volleyball, I laid in bed for two weeks contemplating my future. I was experiencing a crisis of faith where I had to decide. Get busy living the abundant life promised in John 10:10 or accept an eternity separated from God?

So that he can no longer spend the rest of his natural life living by [his] human appetites and desires, but [he lives] for what God wills, 1 Peter 4:2.

Based upon the passage above, one of Jesus’ disciples had his own inner demons to overcome. Following his last recorded conversation with Jesus in John 21:15-19, Peter had his own Andy Dufresne moment. Instead of dreaming about starting over in Mexico, Peter was sick and tired of wasting his spiritual potential on natural appetites, cravings, and desires. For Christians, there is only one way to get busy living. When you discover God’s will for your life and uncover spiritual gifts and talents, hope becomes a reality, Romans 12:1-2.

by Jay Mankus

I Hope So

When it comes to music, timing is everything. Some songs aren’t recognized or uncovered until a band is well past their prime. Each day countless songs are available to listen to or buy on itunes, Pandora or You Tube. Unfortunately, many within this graveyard of songs from the past merely collect dust, forgotten and ignored until the right moment arises.

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope, Romans 15:13.

Last week I stumbled upon the song God I Hope So. I didn’t think much of this 2012 song from Remedy Drive until I reached the chorus. “Maybe this is just the way it had to be, maybe there’s a beauty in this tragedy I don’t know but I hope so.” These lyrics seem to apply to the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite being released eight years too early, this song challenges people to reflect upon the frailty of life.

Personally I am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge and competent to admonish and counsel and instruct one another also, Romans 15:14.

In the 1994 film Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman refers to hope as being dangerous during a lunch time conversation with good friend Andy Dufresne played by Tim Robbins. For a prisoner serving a life sentence, hope is the only thing you have to get you through each day. Likewise, as the world fights the invisible disease known as COVID-19, hoping for a cure is leading individuals to pray. Although no one knows the day and time this cure will arrive, I hope it comes quickly so that joy will return to America.

by Jay Mankus

The Power of Hope

Hope is like a double edged sword. On one side, hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain outcome or thing to happen. Meanwhile, on the other side reality exists, the state of things as they actually are currently. This opposition denounces an idealistic or notional idea of what hope has to offer.

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation, Romans 5:3-4.

In the 1994 film Shawshank Redemption, two prisoners argue about hope while talking over a meal. Andy Dufresne played by Tim Robbins reveals his perspective of hope, describing this as a place in your mind that no one can take away from you. Red Redding played by Morgan Freeman disagrees, interrupting Robbins to highlight the dangers of hope.

Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us, Romans 5:5.

The apostle Paul writes about the biblical meaning of hope during a first century letter to the church of Rome. Perhaps, even Christians were losing hope and needed a word of encouragement to press on. Paul makes three guarantees about hope. Hope never deludes, disappoints or shames human beings. Why, you may ask? God’s love has been poured out to hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit to those who believe. This is the power of hope.

by Jay Mankus

I’m Sick of It

Every once in a while a song will speak to me.  The timing is perfect, preparing you for the lyrics about to be sung.  Whether its a coincidence, divine intervention or fate, this message connects with your soul.  Such is the case of Skillet’s song Sick of It.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

The opening stanza speaks to people struggling with life.  This appeals to those who keep trying to make there life better without any signs of improvement on the horizon.  Like a boxer on the verge of giving up training for a big fight, progress will determine if you continue.  Anyone who is tired of losing often throws in the towel before letting things play out.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 2 Peter 1:3.
In the film Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne played by Tim Robbins has a I’m sick of it moment.  Frustrated by the injustice he has endured, Dufresne finds himself at a crossroads in life with one of two choices to make.  “Either get busy living or get busy dying.”  This same question must be addressed by anyone sick of their current situation.  May you choose life.

by Jay Mankus

The Hope of Eternal Life

Hope can be a dangerous thing.  Yet, without hope, there’s nothing to look forward to.  This is what kept Andy Dufresne going during his life sentence at Shawshank State Penetenuary in the film Shawshank Redemption.  Subsequently, Andy foresaw beyond the bars in front of him, envisioning a life beyond prison.

In the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, Titus 1:2.

As a Christian, the same concept applies.  For some, life on earth can be a prison, trapped by an unforgiving world.  While some moments may be treasured, the Bible promises another world free from sin, death and pain.  Therefore, hope waits in eager expectation of eternal life in heaven.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life, 1 John 5:13.

One of Jesus’ disciples suggests this isn’t an empty promise.  Rather, eternal life is something you can embrace and plan for before you die.  Like making a will, Romans 6:23 details the process that is involved.  Therefore, don’t wait until its too late.  Instead, accept God’s free gift so that the hope of eternal life becomes real.

by Jay Mankus

Amusing Myself to Death

The definition of entertainment refers to providing and or receiving amusement or enjoyment.  Early cultures built theaters, often used to host plays to provide comic relief from the troubles in life.  In recent years, sports allows individuals to release their stress for a couple of hours each weekend.  However, if you get too comfortable or close to the finer things in life, you may be in danger of amusing yourself to death.

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols, Acts 17:16.

After a long week of work, I tend to find myself on a recliner soaking in something on television.  While I do spent time outside playing golf, at my current age, I prefer to be entertained.  Perhaps this explains why I have a hard time turning the channel when movies like A Few Good Men, Bourne Identity or Shawshank Redemption come on.  Its strange how reruns can attract someone’s attention, wasting valuable time that could be spent fulfilling your dreams.

So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there, Acts 17:17.

One of the best resources for escaping the grips of amusement is Summit Ministries.  During my decade of teaching, Dr. Jeff Myers and John Stonestreet were at the forefront of preparing students for college.  One of their common messages is that life imitates art.   The best way to address this is by engaging today’s culture through apologetics.  Just as the apostle Paul persuaded the people of Athens, this world needs a leader to snap people out of their spiritual slumber.  May the Lord awaken couch potatoes with the saving grace of God.

by Jay Mankus

 

Stories That Make You Go Hum…

Sometimes you have to be in the right place and right time to believe a story that you hear.  When something doesn’t make sense logically, skeptics always arrive on the scene, trying to poke holes into your account.  Yet, history holds a plethora of unexplained events which even baffle government officials to this day.

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out, Acts 5:19.

Arrested in plain sight, the apostles were taken to a public facility in Jerusalem.  The prison doors were locked, guards took their watch and loved ones went home sad, unsure of the future of their friends.  Nonetheless, like a scene out of a Hollywood, an invisible entity unlocked all their cells, allowing each to slide by the night watchmen and walked home unharmed.  This is one of those prison breaks that make you want to go hum…

On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to, Acts 5:24.

Like the resurrection of Jesus, who made several appearances in public 40 days after his death, this escape from prison befuddled religious leaders.  Just as Andy Dufresne disappeared like a fart in the wind near the end of Shawshank  Redemption, this biblical account emphasizes an essential truth about the Lord’s power.  Whether you are Mary, Joseph or someone seeking to emulate Jesus, with God all things are truly possible.

by Jay Mankus

Living in Anticipation or Dying with Regret?

In the days of my youth, I often longed for certain moments in time, excited about a specific day, event or weekend.  Like a student who lives for Spring Break and summer vacation, anticipation was building up inside, waiting to be satisfied.  However, recently, I haven’t had much joy living day to day.  As I was filling up my car at a local gas station, a song from the 80’s, piped through exterior loud speakers, convicted me of my blasé attitude.

Robin Williams communicates a similar message to his students in the film Dead Poets Society.  Instead of a boring first day of class with assigned seats, handing out books and going over a course syllabus, Williams wants his students to live English.  Quoting a Latin phrase from a poem, Carpe Diem, Williams challenges his class to seize each day!  Thus, the question remains; will you live the rest of your days in anticipation of what may occur or die with regrets?

One of the most intriguing passages of scripture is found in the gospel of John.  The red letters in John 10:10 indicate that Jesus is speaking, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  They refers to Jesus’ sheep, those people who know the voice of their shepherd and follow him.  The first portion of Jesus’ words focus on how Satan attempts to steal your joy for living, kill any dreams you may have and destroy your life.

Therefore, this battle is not only internal; finding motivation to make the most of each day, but it is also spiritual.  Thus, if you want to make the promise in John 10:10 a living reality, putting on the armor of God is essential, Ephesians 6:11.  Otherwise, you might die regretting your last years on earth.  As Andy Dufresne says in Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living or get busy dying,” the choice is yours?  Seize the day now before its’ too late!

By Jay Mankus

Relentless Determination

In the movie Shawshank Redemption Tim Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, an accountant falsely accused of killing his wife.  After fighting for survival while on laundry duty in prison, the warden begins to show favor toward Andy, moving him to Library duty.  Eventually, Andy is put in charge of the library, getting permission to write the state for funds.  For 3 years, Andy shows relentless determination, not stopping until he receives his goal, money and donated material to update the library.

The Lord convicted me today that I often give up before I reach my goal or desired destination.  Sometimes people read too much into closed doors, failure or lost opportunities.  Trying something once, twice or a few times and abandoning it isn’t honoring to God, especially if you are going in a direction you are passionate about.  As C.S. Lewis declares in Mere Christianity, success is the process of arriving, not actually arriving.

As I continue to search for my place in the world, a song by Michael W. Smith, I need to dig down deep.  Like a 3rd stringer trying to make an NFL team, the person who demonstrates relentless determination often opens the coaches eyes and sometimes wins a spot on the team.  Desperation can bring out the best in someone, especially if they are fighting for their livelihood.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!  Faith in a cause leads to relentless determination, James 2:18.

by Jay Mankus

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