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Naughty or Nice?

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Dr. Suess first released the original The Grinch Who Stole Christmas in 1957. The man behind Dr. Suess is actually Theodor Seuss Geisel. The concept of a Christmas Naughty and Nice list was implied by Dr. Suess with the Grinch as the poster child for the naughty. Seven years later Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer introduced Santa’s Naughty and Nice List. Meanwhile, the 1973 Christmas classic The Year Without a Santa Claus reenergized Santa’s calling to travel the world on Christmas Eve to reward good children.

But I tell you, on the day of judgment men will have to give account for every [s]idle (inoperative, nonworking) word they speak. 37 For by your words you will be justified and acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned and sentenced, Matthew 12:36-37.

As I’m about the finish my study of the Book of Revelation, I was reminded of the Bible’s own Naughty and Nice List. In the first century, Jesus pointed to the Book of Life while teaching about Judgment Day. Anyone who has made their reservations in advance, Romans 10:9-11 and 1 John 5:12-13, will be acquitted on Judgment Day. The apostle Paul explains this in Galatians 2:20 and 1 Corinthians 15:53-58. Subsequently, anyone who has entered into a personal relationship with Jesus makes the Nice List.

And the sea delivered up the dead who were in it, death and Hades ([c]the state of death or disembodied existence) surrendered the dead in them, and all were tried and their cases determined by what they had done [according to their motives, aims, and works], Revelation 20:13.

The apostle Paul writes about those individuals who pass away without ever being introduced to Jesus in Romans 1:18-20. According to the disciple whom Jesus loved, these people will be judged based upon their aims, motives and works. The great commission is currently in its third and final stage, Acts 1:8, taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. God’s Naughty and Nice List is finalized based upon these three categories. If you’re unsure if your name is in The Book of Life, there’s still time to join the nice list, Hebrews 10:26-27.

by Jay Mankus

The Tent of the Testimony

If you asked me what a testimony was in high school, I would point to the court room. Likely quoting a scene from Law and Order which was popular back in the day. Yet, as I began to attend spiritual events like camps, conferences and retreats, my ears were introduced to the biblical meaning of a testimony. The classic hymn In the Garden compares a testimony to your own personal story like taking a walk back through time.

After this I looked and the sanctuary of the tent of the testimony in heaven was thrown open, Revelation 15:5.

During one of his many visions that comprise the Book of Revelation, John sees a sanctuary. However, this place is a tent, perhaps something like the tent of meeting detailed by Moses in Leviticus 1:1-17. Yet, John doesn’t focus on the physical dimensions. Rather, John’s attention is focused on what’s going on inside this tent, testimonies of believers up in heaven. This is the Tent of the Testimony.

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[b] how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed, Mark 5:18-20.

The Christian artist who simply goes by the name Carmen attempts to describe this heavenly place in his song Lazarus Come Forth. The context of Carmen’s song is based upon the shortest verse in the battle, Jesus wept, John 11:35. Carmen compares the Tent of the Testimony to a Tent Revival from Great Awakenings of the past as believers take turns sharing stories of how each entered into a personal relationship with God. May today’s blog inspire you to share your own testimony with a friend today.

by Jay Mankus

A Strange Dream or Locust from Hell?

Most of my dreams come from stress or things that I watched recently. When I’m really tired, I usually collapse without a thought. Yet, experts claim dreams are created by the unconscious mind, which is a part of the brain that is not bound to reality. As I continued my study of Revelation, I tried to visualize what I was reading like a strange dream, but what I discovered was a locust from hell.

 He opened the [b]long shaft of the Abyss (the bottomless pit), and smoke like the smoke of a huge furnace puffed out of the [c]long shaft, so that the sun and the atmosphere were darkened by the smoke from the long shaft. Then out of the smoke locusts came forth on the earth, and such power was granted them as the power the earth’s scorpions have, Revelation 9:2-3.

Of all the films inspired by the Book of Revelation, I’m surprised no one has written about the Locusts from hell. While I do enjoy some of the End Time movies on the Sci-Fi Channel, this hybrid creature described by John seems too unreal. Revelation 9:7-10 suggests these locusts have human faces, hair like women, teeth as sharp as a lion, an iron breastplate, scorpion tails and super propelled wings.

They were told not to injure the herbage of the earth nor any green thing nor any tree, but only [to attack] such human beings as do not have the seal (mark) of God on their foreheads. They were not permitted to kill them, but to torment (distress, vex) them for five months; and the pain caused them was like the torture of a scorpion when it stings a person. And in those days people will seek death and will not find it; and they will yearn to die, but death evades and flees from them, Revelation 9:4-6.

Some of the best written screenplays have a scene so vivid you think it’s real until this person wakes up from their dream. Other people experience something so bizarre that they think they’re dreaming, but it’s a living nightmare. Once I’ve reached 50 years of age, I wish I could go back in time to change the person that I’ve become. Yet, the camera is still rolling, as you have time to adjust. May this blog inspire you keep dreaming big as you strive to fulfill the promise of an abundant life in Christ, John 10:10.

by Jay Mankus

Shaken by the Wind

As someone who has traveled throughout the continental United States, every place has unique features. Over the past 50 years, I’ve been shaken by down drafts, earthquakes, tornadoes and waterspouts. When the earth stopped shaking and the winds died down, I had time to reflect upon what I experienced. Natural disasters are God’s way of showing me life is more important than physical possessions.

And the stars of the sky dropped to the earth like a fig tree shedding its unripe fruit out of season when shaken by a strong wind, Revelation 6:13.

One of John’s visions that comprises the Book of Revelation is something you’d see in a Science Fiction catastrophe film. Yet on this particular day rather than observing shooting stars in the sky, stars are plunging to the earth. Like a large meteorite striking the ground, this event will forever alter human life on earth. According to John, people will seek shelter in caves high in the mountains.

And as He saw [k]one single leafy fig tree [l]above the roadside, He went to it but He found nothing but leaves on it [[m]seeing that in the fig tree the fruit appears at the same time as the leaves]. And He said to it, Never again shall fruit grow on you! And the fig tree withered up at once. 20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled greatly and asked, How is it that the fig tree has withered away all at once? – Matthew 21:19-20

Fig trees are mentioned more than 50 times in the Bible.  Fig tree were extremely important for both nutritional and economic reasons in ancient times. When Jesus came across an unproductive fig tree in the passage above, he curses it and immediately this tree withers. One of Jesus’ disciples uses a similar analogy in the top passage. As seasons change, the wind will either die down or intensify. Therefore, as seasons in life signal a transition, keep in step with the Holy Spirit so you’re not shaken by the wind.

by Jay Mankus

What is Your Record?

When I was in grade school, boys were obsessed with records. Every day at lunch and recess debates broke out about who was the best athlete, rock band, and professional sports team. Lines were drawn, voices were raised and the victor teased anyone who didn’t hold their position. According to one of Jesus’ disciples, God knows your spiritual record based upon what you’ve done in life.

I know your record and what you are doing, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your recent works are more numerous and greater than your first ones, Revelation 2:19.

There was a long stretch in my life where I received a job offer for every position that I interviewed for. Despite stumbling through a couple of interviews when stuttering was still an obstacle in my life, God’s favor was clearly on my life. Unfortunately, sometime over the last decade, my record for interviews has hit a major losing streak. Like one of the churches in the Book of Revelation, my love for God has grown cold and the favor which was once bright as a rising sun has quickly faded.

Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong], 1 Corinthians 13:4-5.

The good news to my current dilemma is that God keeps no record of wrongs. The apostle Paul reveals this fact in a chapter devoted to spiritual love. Meanwhile, King David provides hope for anyone with a losing record in life, Psalm 103:7-12. God’s grace, forgiveness, and mercy is infinite. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you’ve experienced a life filled with losing. According to Jesus, the only record God cares about is forgiving others just as the Lord has forgiven you, Matthew 6:14-15. When Christians start loving your neighbor as yourself, God’s favor will return.

by Jay Mankus

Does Your Church Have an Angel?

When I think of angels, I usually imagine guardian angels who watch over an individual’s life. Yet, according to John, one of his visions that makes up the book of Revelation, there were 7 specific churches in Asia Minor who possessed an angel. Based upon the passage below, John compares these angels with spiritual messengers who guided the leaders of these 7 churches.

As to the hidden meaning (the mystery) of the seven stars which you saw on My right hand and the seven lampstands of gold: the seven stars are the seven angels (messengers) of the seven assemblies (churches) and the seven lampstands are the seven churches, Revelation 1:20.

As someone who has attended various churches throughout the United States, there are certain places where you sense the power of the Holy Spirit as you enter. Meanwhile, other church buildings seem strange, often giving me an uneasy feeling as I sit down. Is the difference between these churches the presence of an angel or the power of the faith within the members of a congregation?

For He will give His angels [especial] charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways [of obedience and service], Psalm 91:11.

One of the Psalmists writes about an angels ability to accompany Christians. Yet, God uses angels to defend and preserve the faith of those who believe. However, if Lucifer and 1/3 of the angels were kicked out of heaven, whether or not freewill is exercised will dictate the spiritual climate of a church. If angels are like modern day spiritual guides, the more church leaders keep in step with the Holy Spirit will set the culture and spiritual tone of modern day houses of worship.

by Jay Mankus

Is this the End?

Every generation has their own perspective on what’s going on in the world. My grandparents endured at least one World War. My father lived through the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis. While I don’t have any grandchildren yet, when I take time to look around at society, I don’t like what I see. Like scenes from apocalyptic movies of the past, all signs indicate that the end of the world as we know it is approaching.

But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear]. For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane, 2 Timothy 3:1-2.

In Matthew 24, the disciples beg Jesus to reveal what the end of days will look like. While Jesus doesn’t give a specific date in the future, a series of events of mentioned so that Christians won’t be caught off guard. The apostle Paul takes a different approach to the last days of the earth. Based upon a revelation that he received from God, Paul describes specific attitudes and behaviors that will become more obvious as this day draws near.

[They will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement); [they will be] slanderers (false accusers, troublemakers), intemperate and loose in morals and conduct, uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good. [They will be] treacherous [betrayers], rash, [and] inflated with self-conceit. [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God, 2 Timothy 3:3-4.

As a former high school teacher, I like to make lists so that I can stay on track. When I recently read 2 Timothy 3:2-4, I began to mentally visualize each of these selfish actions. As I went through this list, I silently said “check, check, check.” While I try to be a positive person, current events and people on social media make me wonder exactly how close is the end? If you want to know more on this topic, read the Book of Revelation. Yet, the best thing you can do in the meantime is to be shining stars in a dark and dying world, Philippians 2:13-16.

by Jay Mankus

Pharmakia

The Greek word pharmakia appears five times in the New Testament. Outside of the book of Revelation, the only other reference of pharmakia occurs in the passage below. Pharmakia is where we derive the English term pharmacy. However, this word can also refer to sorcery and witchcraft. What the apostle Paul is trying to express in the acts of the sinful nature is that human bodies can come under the influence of a foreign spirit such as wine or a demonic entity.

Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), Galatians 5:20.

In the passage below, one of Jesus’ disciples has a vision of the future. This image narrows in on what will happen in the last days on the earth. According to John, there will be a lack of personal responsibility. Instead of confessing sins, people will choose to justify and rationalize their own actions. This form of denial is similar to an individual under the influence of a drug who is not in their right mind.

And the rest of humanity who were not killed by these plagues even then did not repent of [the worship of] the works of their [own] hands, so as to cease paying homage to the demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor move. 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their practice of magic (sorceries) or their sexual vice or their thefts, Revelation 9:20-21.

If Satan can appear as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, what you see can be deceiving. The term sober is found 12 times in the Bible. If your mind is affected by some form of pharmakia, your decision making will be impaired. Therefore, if you want to overcome the various temptations which lurk around every corner in life, being sober is essential. Despite laws to legalize marijuana, a gateway drug, be sober so that you can take your stand against future Satanic schemes, Ephesians 6:12.

by Jay Mankus

Being Phased Out

If you work for a big company, sooner or later you will experience the pain of being phased out.  Sometimes this may be certain positions or an entire department that are eliminated to reduce cost and save money for shareholders.  Industries like coal may be phased out in my lifetime by cleaner, more efficient energy.  Meanwhile, other famous companies file for bankruptcy due to a lack of vision.  Richard Sears began using printed mailers in 1888 to advertise watches and jewelry.  This eventually gave birth to the Sears Catalog in 1943.  However, when Amazon was established in 1995 using the internet as an online catalog, Sears didn’t change their business model in time to save their company and customers.

But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place, Acts 12:16-17.

When Herod Agrippa I gave orders to have James the brother of John executed, Peter became a marked man.  According to Luke, religious leaders encouraged the king of the Jews to arrest and put Peter to death following the Passover celebrations.  While imprisoned, an angel of the Lord led Peter to escape.  However, based upon the passage above, Peter went into hiding, keeping a low profile.  It was during this period that the Lord rose up a godly man who would surprise Peter spiritually.  Saul who changes his name to Paul in Acts 13 is used to phase Peter out.  When the Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria heard the gospel message, Peter was no longer needed as God raised him up to reach a Jewish audience.  A new voice was necessary to introduce the Gentiles to the good news about Jesus.  Thus, Peter is replaced by Paul to start the final phase, taking the Bible to the ends of the earth.

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” Acts 1:7-8.

According to the book of Revelation, Jesus will not return until every land, nation and tribe has a chance to either receive or reject Jesus as Savior, Romans 10:9-10.  This final phase is approaching 2,000 years and no one knows how much longer the Great Commission will take to complete.  Sure, there will always be guesses, projections and speculation, but only Jesus knows when this mission will end.  No one likes to be phased out, especially when you are forced to sit on the sidelines as someone else takes your place.  Nonetheless, if you aren’t gathering for God, you are likely scattering by leading others astray.  If this occurs, don’t be surprised if God sends someone else to finish the job that you were assigned.  This might result in being phased out by a believer who is more spiritually prepared than you.  However, failure does not mean the end.  Learn from your past mistakes so that the Holy Spirit will inspire you to be ready the next time God calls.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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