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The Introduction of a Better Hope

In this age of COVID-19, rising gas prices and shortages of essential supplies, hope isn’t a word that comes to my mind. Instead anxieties, concerns, and doubt take center stage of daily conversations. While venting your frustrations is good for your soul, too much complaining can lead to a toxic environment. If there was ever a time when human beings needed the introduction of a better hope, today is that day.

For the Law never made anything perfect—but instead a better hope is introduced through which we [now] come close to God. 20 And it was not without the taking of an oath [that Christ was made Priest], Hebrews 7:19-20.

The author of Hebrews provides this positive message. The Old Testament law was designed to define the boundary lines for every day living. Yet, following biblical rules doesn’t make you perfect. Rather, these guidelines are intended to keep danger and evil out as you draw closer to God. The passage above suggests that as you read and study the Bible, you will eventually find Jesus. Entering into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, is the introduction of a better hope.

Therefore, since we are justified ([a]acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us [grasp the fact that we] have [the peace of reconciliation to hold and to [b]enjoy] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God, Romans 5:1-2.

The apostle Paul shares the spiritual benefits of this new hope. As human beings make peace with God by verbally confessing their errors, mistakes, and sins, you gain access to God’s grace by faith. Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ disciples reveals how the Holy Spirit gives you everything you need for life, 2 Peter 1:3-4. Yet, until you enter into a life long relationship with God, this isn’t available. Therefore, if this blog finds you in a state of despair, come to Jesus, the eternal source of a better hope.

by Jay Mankus

How Can You Love Your Neighbor When You Hate The Person You’ve Become?

Clive Staples Lewis was an atheist and British writer before becoming a lay theologian. C.S. Lewis once contemplated the concept of loving your neighbor. The following quote reveals his thoughts. You are told to love your neighbor as yourself. How do you love yourself? When I look into my own mind, I find that I do not love myself by thinking myself a dear old chap or having affectionate feelings.” This same dilemma exists today as how can you love your neighbor when many people don’t like the person they’ve become.

Teacher, which [e]kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?] 37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect), Matthew 22:36-37.

Following a series of parables, Jesus is asked by a religious leader a spiritual question. “What’s the most important commandment?” Instead of de-emphasizing the other 9 from the most essential, Jesus divides the commandments into two parts. The first 4 commandments are based upon loving God with the final 6 focused on loving your neighbor. When Christians began to love God with all their hearts, soul and mind, the practice of religion turns into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. 40 These two commandments [f]sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets, Matthew 22:38-40.

When hearts grow cold, love stops naturally flowing out of human beings. If faith is not revived or resuscitated, this lack of love can slowly turn into self hatred for oneself. When sources for love dry up, there is no positivity that bubbles over on to the people you interact with daily. The longer this subtle decay continues, there is no inspiration to love friends and family. The key to loving your neighbor is to tap into the love of God, John 3:16-17. As individuals begin to feel and sense God’s love, desires to pass this on to others is restored. Unfortunately, healing take time. Just hang in there long enough for restoration to ignite your heart with the love of God.

by Jay Mankus

Open Up to Know the Living God

In the opening scene of American Beauty screenwriter Alan Ball introduces Lester Burnham.  Played by Kevin Spacey, Lester shares that he has been dead inside for sometime.  Lester’s not sure how or when this happened, but something in his soul can’t stand the person that he has become.  This confession sets the stage for Lester to wake up from this spiritual slumber so that he can truly live once again.

In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [b]Himself.He was present originally with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being, John 1:1-3.

Ten years ago, I was living a dream, teaching the Bible to high school teenagers and coaching golf.  While it took me nearly 40 years to discover God’s will for my life, I was blessed by God for a decade as spiritual fruits began to blossom.  Unfortunately, when Red Lion Christian Academy was sold and the church was disbanded, a part of me died.  After pouring my heart and soul into this institution, I was fired and left leaving like a failure.

In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it], John 1:4-5.

Like Lester’s character in American Beauty, joy returned to me in the midst of sorrow. While attending a memorial service for two members of the Hanson family over the weekend, spending time with my extended family brought a new appreciation for life. You never know when your time will be up; when your life will permanently expire. Therefore, it’s time to live by start taking chances and try to become all that God wants you to be. As I start to wake up from my spiritual slumber, join me by opening up to know the living God.

by Jay Mankus

Letting Go of Your Past … One Article at a Time

Every year Americans clean out their closets, dust off belongings in their attics and go through old boxes set aside in the corner of a vacant room. Inside each of these containers lie relics of the past. From my own personal experience, it’s hard to let go of favorite pieces from my past. Despite being faded, warn out, and a little small, nostalgia has prevented me from letting go of the memories associated with these clothes.

Then Peter came up to Him and said, Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? [As many as] up to seven times? 22 Jesus answered him, I tell you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven! – Matthew 18:21-22

When it comes to forgiveness, everyone has a pre-conceived notion about the right amount. During a conversation with Jesus, Peter shares his opinion. Instead of adopting a three strikes and you’re out policy, Peter feels that everyone should get seven do overs, one per day. Taking this well beyond Peter’s answer, Jesus suggests that forgiveness should be an unlimited number. Yet, when you are the one who has been afflicted, hurt, and wronged, letting go of any transgression is just as difficult, if not more.

Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind). 32 And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you, Ephesians 4:31-32.

Apparently, the apostle Paul addresses questions about forgiveness in a letter to Ephesus. Paul goes into details about how not letting go of past transgressions affects your soul. As this spiritual baggage builds up, bitterness spreads. This is where the 70 x 7 equation comes into play. If God forgives you as far as the east is from the west, Psalm 103:12, this infinite amount of grace should inspire you to forgive others in a similar manner. Therefore, when you are able to let go of your past, you can begin to love others as Christ loves the church.

by Jay Mankus

The Secret to Satisfaction

The Rolling Stones first sang about the inability to find satisfaction in their 1965 hit (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. When one’s expectations, needs, or wishes go unfulfilled, an uneasy feeling begins to consume souls. As individuals begin to compare their lives with successful people, focuses shift from what you have to what you don’t. Thus, the invisible and unseen blessings that could lead to satisfaction are often ignored, resulting in a troubled heart.

I was made very happy in the Lord that now you have revived your interest in my welfare after so long a time; you were indeed thinking of me, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am, Philippians 4:10-11.

Near the end of his life, the apostle Paul finds himself in chains, behind bars for a crime that he didn’t commit. Instead of allowing bitterness to overwhelm his heart, writing a letter to the Church at Philippi appears to have brought a sense peace to Paul, Philippians 4:7. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to encourage these first century saints to focus on the positive aspects in life, Philippians 4:8. In the passages that follow, Paul reveals the secret to finding satisfaction.

I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want. 13 I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency], Philippians 4:12-13.

This secret includes 3 key principles. The first is remembering God’s purpose for your life, Jeremiah 29:11. The second piece of advice is relying on God’s Spirit within you to make a change for the better, Philippians 4:13. Finally, if you want to find satisfaction, redeem God’s promises for your future, Philippians 1:9-10. Whatever formula that may be out there, nothing is guaranteed in this life. Thus, until you begin to put Jesus’ words into action, Matthew 7:24, satisfaction is just another word.

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

When a Grumpy Old Man Begins to Take Over

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau starred in the 1993 film Grumpy Old Men. The screenplay was written by Mark Steven Johnson who also wrote the sequel Grumpier Old Men which debuted in theaters two years later. After doing some research, apparently there is such a thing as the Grumpy Old Man Syndrome. According to one source, this condition is a due to a combination of psychological and physiological issues. When the best years of life have passed, men often feel the need to wall themselves off to protect themselves from sadness and despair. Thus, angry outbursts are the direct result of what is going on within a troubled soul.

Cease from anger and forsake wrath; fret not yourself—it tends only to evildoing. For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait and hope and look for the Lord [in the end] shall inherit the earth, Psalm 37:8-9.

In the passage above, David writes about his various encounters with grumpy old men while serving as king of Israel. Age has a way of wearing on individuals, causing some to speak their mind without a filter. As anger, bitterness, and frustration build up deep inside of human hearts, evil is waiting for a trigger to be unleashed. Like a cease fire between two border nations, David calls believers to stop anger before you give the devil of foothold, Ephesians 4:26-27. Unfortunately, many ignore the early symptoms of anger until a co-worker, family member or neighbor experiences the wrath of your emotional outburst.

Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [[against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], 15 That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world, Philippians 2:14-15.

In recent weeks, I find another presence at work in my body, Romans 7:15-16. Perhaps, the apostle Paul sensed a grumpy old spirit taking over his life as well. Anyway, this grumpy and negative attitude has overflowed from within me. When a series of rejections put my future writing aspirations on hold, disappointment is oozing out in the form of chippy comments, glaring eyes, and silently grumbling to myself. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, the apostle Paul provides an anecdote in the passage above. The moment a grumpy old man begins to take over, yield control over to Jesus. As you do, the darkness of angry spirits will be replaced by the light of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Driven to Your Knees

When tragedy strikes, most people need a shoulder to lean on, an attentive ear to listen or a hug to be consoled. During his several missionary journeys, the apostle Paul endured agitators, harassing crowds and mobs that wanted to silence his teaching about Jesus. On a couple of occasions, Paul was nearly beaten and stoned to death. Despite this persecution, Paul found time daily to kneel before the Great I Am.

For this reason [seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 For Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named [that Father from Whom all fatherhood takes its title and derives its name]. 16 May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality], Ephesians 3:14-16.

In a letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul reveals the secret to his prayer life. Upon his knees, prayer rejuvenated Paul, replacing his own needs with a desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Apparently, prayer strengthened and reinforced Paul, sensing God’s presence as he poured our heart in prayer. Paul exercised his faith in prayer by making a permanent place in his heart for Jesus.

17 May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; 19 [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]! – Ephesians 3:17-19

Over time, Paul’s faith in Christ was deeply rooted, like the firm foundation of a skyscraper. The daily discipline of prayer conceived and established the love of Jesus within Paul’s soul. When people become devoted to prayer, selfish desires are replaced by the fullness of God. When you begin to experience the abundant life, John 10:10, a spiritual addiction is born. Instead of allowing the world to dictate your mood, praying in the Spirit is like a wave flooding your soul with God’s presence. This is why Paul was driven to his knees.

by Jay Mankus

Praying in the Spirit

In the first century, churches planted following missionary journey visits by the apostle Paul met in homes or outside, often the banks of local rivers. In a letter to the church at Corinth, Paul provides some useful tips for those members who participate in home churches. This guideline is found in 1 Corinthians 14:26. While singing hymns, teaching, and utterances are the heart of these gatherings, praying in the Spirit sets the tone.

For if I pray in an [unknown] tongue, my spirit [by the Holy Spirit within me] prays, but my mind is unproductive [it bears no fruit and helps nobody], 1 Corinthians 14:14.

Unfortunately, the spirit is willing, but human bodies are weak, Matthew 26:41. This reality motivated Paul to learn to pray in the Spirit, Ephesians 6:18. Since there is a battle for human souls, Galatians 5:16-18 and Ephesians 6:12, keeping in step with God is essential, Ephesians 5:25. Whenever you allow the flesh to control your behavior, Romans 7:15, it’s only a matter of time before disobedience, failure or sin arrives.

Then what am I to do? I will pray with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will also pray [intelligently] with my mind and understanding; I will sing with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will sing [intelligently] with my mind and understanding also, 1 Corinthians 14:15.

Therefore, praying in the Spirit by inviting the Holy Ghost to direct and guide your thoughts is key. You can’t base your faith upon how you feel. During a letter to the church at Colosse, Paul suggests that you should let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, Colossians 3:15-16. The more you meditate upon God’s Word and allow Jesus’ teaching to dwell within you, a spiritual foundation is laid to turn a simple prayer into an encounter with God by praying in the Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

To All of You That I’ve Hurt Before

Hal David wrote the words and Albert Hammond crafted the music for the song To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before. This was originally recorded in 1975 by Albert Hammond, featured on his 99 Miles From L.A. album. However, it wasn’t until Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson teamed up in 1984 which made To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before a hit song. The lyrics point to why relationships come to an end, “The winds of change are always blowing and every time I tried to stay the winds of change continued blowing and they just carried me a way.”

Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency, 20 Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), Galatians 5:19-20.

One of the facts Hal David excludes from this song is the pain that human beings inflict upon previous boy friends and girl friends. Depending upon your personality, some tend to do most of the dumping while others bear the brunt of a break up. Whenever you open your heart and bear your soul to a significant other, being vulnerable opens the door to be hurt. However, you don’t have to be in a relationship with someone to damage, scar or wound other human beings. Anger, cruelty, and harsh words are some of the tools used to inflict pain daily.

Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive]. 14 And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony], Colossians 3:13-14.

The apostle Paul urged members of the Church at Colosse to reach out to all the people that they have hurt before. The point of this call was to seek reconciliation, to put to rest any past wrong. The only way to make peace is by confessing how you have specifically have wronged someone. This process involves bearing with and forgiving all of the people that you’ve hurt before. Depending upon your past, making things right could take years. However, when you put on the love of Christ, harmony is possible. As for me, this blog was inspired as a way to apologize to all of you that I’ve hurt in one way or another. I’m sorry for my wrongful acts of the past.

by Jay Mankus

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