Advertisements
RSS Feed

Tag Archives: souls

Celebration and Suffering

News of an expecting birth is worthy of a celebration in the form of baby shower.  After labor ushers into this world a new human being, joy consumes families of this infant.  In the years that follow, there are a series of memorable moments, first steps, first words and first day of school.  As new parents work together to raise children, celebrating is often replaced by suffering.  From childhood to adolescence, life only gets more complicated, especially for first time parents.  At some point, celebration fades away as suffering intensifies.  I don’t mean to be Ebenezer Scrooge, but this is a reality of life.

Now it happened that the poor man died and his spirit was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (paradise); and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades (the realm of the dead), being in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom (paradise), Luke 16:22-23.

After sharing the parable of the unjust manager, Jesus transitions into another parable.  Entitled the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus highlights a reason to celebrate and another to fear.  Using a story about a rich and poor man, Jesus uses a hypothetical scenario to detail what heaven and hell is like.  When Lazarus dies, God rewards this poor man with what Jesus calls paradise.  Meanwhile, a self-centered rich man who cared only about himself was sent to hell.  According to Jesus, hell is a place of eternal suffering, able to see those celebrating above, but unable to do anything to help their agony and pain.  This fact should convict and inspire the living to avoid a similar eternal destiny.

And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in severe agony in this flame,’ Luke 16:24.

In the previous chapter, Luke, a well known first century doctor recalls three parables that illustrate God’s grace, love and mercy.  Whether a possession is lost like a coin or pet, heaven celebrates each time a sinner repents.  Angels are programmed to embrace hearts that confess the error of their way.  Meanwhile, even if you are a prodigal son or daughter who has left your family, God will never abandon you.  These stories have been written to urge souls to surrender your life to follow Jesus.  Although this road is narrow as detailed by Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14, any worldly suffering that you might endure is worth this decision.  Therefore, do not ignore the passage listed above so that your eternal destination will be celebrated at your funeral rather than suffer, not knowing whether you are in heaven or hell.

by Jay Mankus

Advertisements

Expecting God to Come Through One More Time

As a former high school teacher, I understand how and why students struggle to remember important information.  Depending upon the day or time, I could tell who was paying attention from those zoned out.  Entertainment, social media and video games has influenced this generation, resulting in a shortened attention span.  Unless students find a topic interesting, hearts, minds and souls drift off into space.  If attending school becomes a drag, getting teenagers interested in spiritual matters can be just as challenging.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor (respect) except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household,” Mark 6:4.

To a certain extent, the people living in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth became spoiled.  After his first miracle at a wedding in Cana, there was a growing sentiment that if Jesus just performed one more miracle, then people would believe.  This show me mentality is the opposite of genuine faith.  Perhaps, some individuals were jealous, not present for Jesus turning water into wine.  Thus, expecting God to come through one more time doesn’t seem unreasonable.

And He could not do a miracle there at all [because of their unbelief] except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. He wondered at their unbelief.  And He was going around in the villages teaching, Mark 6:5-6.

Nonetheless, a spiritual haze fell upon the citizens of Nazareth.  When you add this to the reputation of this town, even one of Jesus’ own disciples questioned if anything good could come out of this place, John 1:46-47.  Crime and poverty demoralized many who lived there, setting the stage for a show me, don’t tell me mindset.  Thus, Nazareth became like kryptonite to Jesus, unable to perform miracles when returning home.  John Mark states that Jesus was surprised by this inexplicable unbelief.  This spiritual state prevented individuals from expecting God to come through one more time.  Maybe this same condition is influencing Americans today?

by Jay Mankus

For Who; For What?

During a 1995 NFL game, former running back Ricky Watters purposively dropped a pass thrown to him.  Playing for the Philadelphia Eagles at the time, Watters was a safety valve on this play.  If his quarterback felt pressure from the defense, the play design led Watters to the middle of the field, beyond the pass rush.  However, as the play was enfolding, Watters saw that a defensive player primed to hit him hard.  To avoid this massive collusion, Watters simply dropped the ball.  Following the game, reporters gathered around Watters locker, wanting the know the reason for this incomplete pass.  Frustrated by this unwanted attention, Ricky Watters responded, “For who; for what?”

One of the lawyers [an expert in the Mosaic Law] answered Him, “Teacher, by saying this, You insult us too!” 46 But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well, because you weigh men down with burdens [man-made rules, unreasonable requirements] which are hard to bear, and you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers [to lighten the load], Luke 11:45-46.

Looking back on this event from 20 years ago, at least Ricky was honest.  If Watters caught this pass, the play would have gained minimal yardage.  Thus, Watters felt like it was unnecessary to sell himself out on this play.  Getting injured on a play that didn’t amount to much didn’t make sense to a professional athlete trying to protect his body and his career.  While “for who; for what” is a selfish statement, do you blame him for confessing what was truly on his heart?  This comment is no different from first century Pharisees, self-righteous religious leaders who served as the media of their day, regularly pointing out the mistakes of others.  To make matters worse, these Jewish leaders added man made rules to God’s laws.  Corrupted by power given to them by their followers, Pharisees were like modern day politicians who set laws for their country, yet were exempt from that which they expect others to obey.

Woe to you lawyers, because you have taken away the key to knowledge (scriptural truth). You yourselves did not enter, and you held back those who were entering [by your flawed interpretation of God’s word and your man-made tradition],” Luke 11:52.

As people read the Bible for the first time, they might not say “for who; for what?”  Yet, people will silently think, “what’s the point?”  Others will ponder, “why should I believe in something written almost two thousand years ago?”  This skepticism is natural in a world always challenging and questioning authority.  Immediately following Peter’s public confession that Jesus is the promised Messiah, Jesus reveals an oxymoron about life.  “If you want to save your life, you will lose it.  However, if you are willing to give up your life, you will save it.”  This head scratching statement from Mark 8:35-37 unveils the purpose for life on earth.  The who is the creator of the heavens and the earth.  The what is dedicating your life by making an eternal difference with the life that God has given you.  When you surrender your aspirations by committing to serving Jesus Christ as Lord, the Holy Spirit enables you to see the big picture, eternity in heaven.  This choice is not forced, but my prayer is that souls are rejuvenated by the message of this blog.

by Jay Mankus

Digesting Prophecy

The dictionary refers to prophecy as a “miracle of knowledge, a declaration, description or representation of something future, beyond the power of human sagacity to foresee, discern, or conjecture.”  In ancient days, Jewish leaders relied on prophets, people with the gift of discernment, able to see or sense future events.  Men and women of God relied on a special anointing to help advise and guide kings starting with Saul, then continuing this practice throughout the Old Testament.

Then the angel whom I had seen standing on the sea and the land raised his right hand [to swear an oath] to heaven, and swore [an oath] by [the name of] Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer, but when it is time for the trumpet call of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God [that is, His hidden purpose and plan] is finished, as He announced the gospel to His servants the prophets, Revelation 10:5-7.

Unfortunately, modern times have revealed false prophets, schemers and teachers.  These individuals have deceived vulnerable souls, in some cases extorting money from desperate and poor people hoping for a miracle.  These factors have made believing in the concept of a genuine prophet today difficult.  When I read passages from John the revelator, it takes time to digest what is written, especially in the passage above and below.  Any curious person would want to know the mystery of God.  Pursuing this hidden information might unveil God’s purpose and will for your life, but this quest will not happen over night.  Rather, digesting prophecy is a lengthy process, causing one famous pastor to wait 20 years before preaching on Revelation.

Then the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking to me, and saying, “Go, take the book (scroll) which is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went up to the angel and told him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey,” Revelation 10:8-9.

In verse 9, Christians are encouraged to read the Bible, chew and meditate upon the messages within this book.  According to the revelation above, some of the teachings of the Bible won’t sit well, like a bitter taste in your mouth.  Other topics will taste as sweet as honey.  Thus, as you begin to digest prophecy, its not an easy process.  Certain aspects will remain confusing and hidden, leaving your understanding about parts of the Bible in the dark.  As a former Bible teacher, this is frustrating, especially when you have to address the unknown in class.  Nonetheless, I press on, honesty confessing that there are books and issues that I am still digesting.  May this blog motivate you to diligently study the Word of God so that the unclear becomes clear as people digest prophecy.

by Jay Mankus

Kicking and Screaming

After one year of attending Channin Elementary School, within walking distance of my house, desegregation bused me into the city of Wilmington, Delaware.  For the next three years, Harlan Elementary became my new school home.  This drastic change was eye opening.  Whenever a student broke a rule, became disobedient or get caught doing something illegal, rarely did I hear, “my bad, I did it, I’m guilty.”  Instead, students were often dragged to the office, kicking and screaming, escorted by one or more administrators.

For you, my brothers, were called to freedom; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the sinful nature (worldliness, selfishness), but through love serve and seek the best for one another, Galatians 5:13.

Today, whenever someone feels like they have been treated unjustly, social media has become a popular site to air your grievances.  While there are many options to choose, Facebook and Twitter are filled with rants daily.  Instead of thinking before individuals press send, emotions stir the pot, building up until one final act boils over to form a vicious tweet.  Once posted, souls attempt to bite and devour one another, plummeting the gutter to an all time low.  While the prudent thing to do is walk away, the sinful nature can’t resist to pile on by fighting back.

But if you bite and devour one another [in bickering and strife], watch out that you [along with your entire fellowship] are not consumed by one another, Galatians 5:15.

The context of the two passages above are sandwiched by a verse referring to the Golden Rule, treating others as you want to be treated.  Jesus uses this principle at the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, adding a condition to forgiveness.  According to Matthew 6:14-15, your forgiveness is dependent upon how you treat and forgive others who trespass against you.  Jesus is clear, “if you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you.”  Near the end of this gospel, Matthew 25:30, Jesus reveals what will happen on judgement day to those who harbor bitterness. failing to forgive.  Not only will these unfortunate souls be dragged away, kicking and screaming, eternity will be spent weeping, wishing they would have chosen love over hatred.

by Jay Mankus

Pushing and Shoving

Pushing and shoving are often associated with a heated argument, fight or skirmish.  When tempers flare, maintaining self-control is a difficult task.  In my half century on earth, I have only been involved in two fights.  While eating lunch in junior high, someone called my name, I stood up and then was blind sided by a punch, dropping to the floor immediately.  A few years later, I was defending a younger neighbor who was black from a high school student who wanted to beat him up.  Although I didn’t want to fight, I stepped in to protect my friend.

But as Jesus went, the people were crowding against Him [almost crushing Him], Luke 8:42b.

The Bible refers to a difficult kind of pushing and shoving.  The passage above would be equivalent to a modern day outdoor rock concert, with fans trying to get as close as possible to their favorite member of a band on stage.  Although its unclear, I’m assuming the disciples served as body guards, attempting to hold the masses back from crushing Jesus.  Nonetheless, these desperate souls did whatever was necessary to touch Jesus while he passed by.

And a woman who had [suffered from] a hemorrhage for twelve years [and had spent all her money on physicians], and could not be healed by anyone, 44 came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His outer robe, and immediately her bleeding stopped, Luke 8:43-44.

When people are hurting, ill or plagued by an unknown condition, there are different levels of urgency.  An initial diagnosis may be cause for concern, but some take no immediate action.  However, as symptoms intensify, hope turns into fear.  The woman in the passage above went from doctor to doctor, spending her life savings without any improvement.  This dire state prompted this woman to push and shove her way through a massive crowd of spectators until Jesus was in reach.  When you reach this point of desperation, cry out to Jesus so that healing and restoration becomes reality.

by Jay Mankus

Magnifying Confidence

If you have a tendency to be analytical like me, you might over think things instead of relying on common sense.  Yet, you can’t deny the difference confidence makes within an athlete, Christian and student.  Uncerainty can stiffle souls, causing individuals to be hesitant, without conviction to act.  However, confidence transforms lives, taking quiet soft spoken individuals to new heights.

When Jesus saw their [active] faith [springing from confidence in Him], He said, “Man, your sins are forgiven,” Luke 5:20.

One day Jesus was teaching in a home when crowds surrounded the building.  By this time in history, Jesus’ healing powers had become legendary as no condition was impossible to cure.  This knowledge empowered a few friends to climb on top of the roof, carrying their friend who was paralyzed.  Eager to get Jesus’ attention, these men cut open a few tiles and lowered their friend to Jesus’ feet.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

This act of faith impressed Jesus and one of four gospel authors.  Luke magnifies confidence by referring to belief, energy and passion linked to those who trust in God’s power to transform lives.  Luke uses the imagery of a spring, bubbling over out of the ground.  When Christians stop focusing on the cants in this life and begin to open their minds to the possibilities with God’s help, confidence is magnifed.

by Jay Mankus

%d bloggers like this: